Is the dreaded K-word going to pop up during President Barack Obama’s trip? And how and where? That’s the big guessing game under way here for a while now.
“I don’t want to get into exactly what the President is going to talk about in his private conversation with Prime Minister Singh,” US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon told reporters on the way to Mumbai.
The question asked of him was this: Is the President going to talk about Kashmir at all on the trip? Donilon did not say no, but indicated it might come up in the “private conversa-tion”.
But he went to say, “We have, as a longstanding policy, encouraged Indians and Pakistan to engage in dialogue on a range of issues, and we continue to encourage that.”
Perhaps as it did in December 2007, during US President George W Bush’s visit?
He had discussed Kashmir with Prime Minister Singh during a one-on-one meeting, and only to reiterate that the US did not want to get involved.
“It will be Pakistan that dominates the private conversations between the President, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, because it is the future of Pakistan that is the most uncertain question in South Asia today,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who advised Obama on his Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy, wrote in a newspaper recently.
Pakistan has kept up a drumbeat here, demanding the US help to solve Kashmir.
Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi raised it many times during his visit here for the second round of Strategic Dialogue with the US in October.
And that’s the one question Pakistani journalists have asked at each briefing on the visit and at any other forum.
Pakistan has long been demanding US intervention in sorting Kashmir, and it has been told as many times that it has no intention of stepping in.