America's abiding interest in resolving Kashmir dispute is no secret, but its motives have long been a matter of speculation.
Does America want a foothold in the scenic Valley from where the rest of Asia - especially the oil rich - strategically critical Central Asia would be a few minutes flight?
Claims of America's altruistic intentions in Kashmir are not what diplomats and analysts in this part of the world give much credence to.
So what are American ambitions in Kashmir? Do they have a detailed roadmap? How far have they been able to push their plans with Pakistan and India?
There may be no specific answers, but the US Mission Papers give enough evidence of the American influence in this part of the world.
Performance Indicator : End of armed conflict along Line of Control
FY 2001: Kashmir militant groups enjoy strong Pakistani support.
FY 2002 Target: End to cross border militancy.
FY 2003 Target: Kashmiri politicians displace militant leaders, extremists.
FY 2004 Target: Both sides monitor Line of Control
FY 2005 Target: Civilian traffic moves regularly across Line of Control.
The US influence seems to have increased during the past three years of war on terror. Since 2001, India and Pakistan have even come close to war. The armies had been mobilised on either side of the border and the world feared a nuclear war. But both sides drew back. Was it Washington's influence? Or did the prospect of nuclear war intensified US urgency? The truth is still not known. But there are factors which aided US interference: a Pakistan leadership dependent on the US more than ever and a right-wing government in India sympathetic and receptive to American ideas.
Whatever the reasons, the US plan has played, and continues to play, a critical hidden role in shaping the peace road India and Pakistan are now taking. The way the two sides have held negotiations, sidelined militant leaders for "over-ground" separatists, worked on new confidence building measures, agreed on starting a bus connecting either side of Kashmir are clear indication that the Americans are playing a significant behind-the-curtain role.
Only in recent months, since the Manmohan Singh government came to power, that the American plans have gone awry. It may have a lot to do with the antipathy towards America among the United Progressive Alliance partners. And a lot to do with Musharraf's present bargaining latitude with American establishment.
Americans drew the Mission Plans in 2002, at the height of Indo-Pak tensions. It contains a detailed roadmap for dealing with Indo-Pak tensions and the Kashmir dispute over a three-year period.
In 2001, the baseline year, the militant groups were enjoying "strong Pakistani support", there was only a partial crackdown by Pak authorities on militant groups, "no Indo-Pak dialogue" and the militaries of the two sides were "at historically high levels along border". Besides, the two sides had stayed away from confidence building measures.
Performance Indicator : Civilian and political movements in Kashmir replace militant insurgency
Baseline FY 2001: Partial crackdown against some Kashmir militant groups and leaders.
FY 2002 Target: Provincial and national police authorities given mandate, training, equipment to arrest extremists.
FY 2003 Target: Successful prosecutions of sectarian, religious, extremist and Kashmir militant leaders.
FY 2004 Target: Measures to prevent Kashmir militant groups and supporters from openly raising money.
FY 2005 Target: Kashmir political leaders assume prominence in national Kashmir political discourse.
The American put in place a strategy to "promote the end of Kashmir as a bilateral flashpoint by encouraging de-escalation and peaceful political resolution of the Kashmir dispute". The American tactics was to "insist Pakistan prevent the infiltration of militants", urge Pakistan to act against terrorists and facilitate bilateral dialogue.
Initially, General Musharraf seemed to follow the American script by cracking down on militants and temporarily stopped terrorist infiltration. But with Musharraf unable to bulldoze India into acceding his demands and his increasing leverage with the US, Pakistan establishment is back to its old ways of infiltration and other terror tactics.
Amazingly, in the last couple of years several American plans seem to have been achieved without much difficulty. And many of their ideas are still in circulation and the two sides are trying to implement them.
The American target was to get the two sides to monitor the 740-km long Line of Control by 2004. Coincidentally, Atal Behari Vajpayee as prime minister had last year suggested to Pakistan that the two sides hold joint patrol of the LOC. It may never be known to what extent the Americans prompted the Indian PM.
If Vajpayee's suggestion and American plans for joint monitoring at LOC sound a mere coincide, then there is another one: the Vajpayee plan to start a bus service connecting the Kashmir valleys held by India and Pakistan is detailed in the 2002 plans.
In 2005, the American target is to ensure that "civilian traffic moves regularly" across the LOC.
America seems to have achieved several other targets in Indo-Pak relations. America's diplomatic target was to get Pakistan to prosecute militants and take measures to prevent the militant groups from raising money in public. Both have partially been achieved.
Performance Indicator Indo-Pakistani talks on Kashmir
Baseline FY 2001: No Indo-Pakistani dialogue
FY 2002 Target: Eased bilateral sanctions and military build up on eastern border..
FY 2003 Target: Formalize bilateral dialog begins.
FY 2004 Target: Involvement of Kashmiri political leaders fro both sides of the Line of Control in Kashmir dialogue.
FY 2005 Target: Framework for eventual political resolution of Kashmir.
But more significantly, the US has managed to achieve several breakthroughs in 2002 and 2003 that would show the marvellous influence of the Superpower. In 2002, the US target was to ensure the military build-up along the Indo-Pak border was eased. It also wanted to ensure reduction in cross border violence, incursions and heavy arms firing. All these plans have been realised.
By 2002 end, India decided to abruptly end Operation Parakram at the LOC without achieving any strategic targets.
In 2003, American had planned that the two sides would begin formal bilateral dialogue. And the Indo-Pak relations followed that script.
According to American plans, by 2005 a framework for eventual political resolution of Kashmir is to be put in place. For long, Musharraf has been hinting that a solution to Kashmir is in sight, and hectic behind-scenes parleys are on between the two sides.
There are several other aspects of the relations, including negotiations of new confidence building measures, that are following the American script.