HT Analysis | US commander-in-chief isn’t reading New Delhi’s memos on Kashmir
India has consistently pushed back every time Donald Trump has raised the Kashmir issue and yet Donald Trump has gone on to offer to mediate on the issue, causing consternation in foreign policy circles in New Delhi and Washington.Updated: Jan 22, 2020 14:14 IST
US President Donald Trump’s latest comments on Kashmir have come at an inopportune moment, because he is expected to visit India next month and they were made against the backdrop of India’s efforts to negate any attempt by Pakistan to internationalise the Kashmir issue.
For the foreign policy establishment in New Delhi, the optics were worse as the comments – “if we can help, we certainly will be helping” – were made ahead of his meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on the margins of the World Economic Forum at Davos.
India has consistently pushed back every time Trump has raised Kashmir, with the external affairs ministry roundly dismissing the US president’s claim last July that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had requested him to mediate on the Kashmir issue. And yet Trump has gone on to offer to mediate on the issue, causing consternation in foreign policy circles in New Delhi and Washington.
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Trump’s ultimate deal-maker belief
Some have contended that Trump repeatedly rakes up Kashmir because he believes he is the ultimate deal-maker and that he can broker some sort of understanding between India and Pakistan.
The Indian government has bristled at all mentions of Kashmir on international platforms, including China’s recent effort to discuss the issue at the UN Security Council, as it deals with the fallout of the controversial security lockdown, communications blackout and detentions in the erstwhile state.
In the latest instance, Trump appeared to be motivated by the necessity to have Pakistan on his side for the US administration’s desperate attempts to reach some sort of understanding with the Taliban to facilitate the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan before his re-election bid.
Barely two years after Trump accused Pakistan of giving nothing but “lies and deceit” in return for billions of dollars in aid, he said the US has “never been closer with Pakistan than we are right now” and described Imran Khan as “a very good friend”. The Trump administration has also resumed a military training programme for Pakistan that was snapped in 2018, though other security assistance continues to be suspended.
Rajiv Dogra, a former ambassador who has served in Pakistan, described Trump’s latest unsolicited offer of mediating in Kashmir as a “meeting of minds and interests”.
“This is a meeting of minds because on one hand you have Trump who thinks India and China don’t share a border and on the other, you have Imran Khan who thinks Germany and Japan share a border,” he said.
Imran has Trump where it hurts the most — Afghanistan
“But more importantly, this is a meeting of interests and Imran Khan knows he has Trump where it hurts him the most – Afghanistan. It’s a beautiful bargain for them and all the strategic theories have gone for a six ever since Trump was sworn in,” Dogra said.
Dogra said he believes Trump is fixated on Afghanistan, and the role Pakistan can play in shaping some sort of a deal in the war-torn country because of its leverage and control over the Taliban, in order to divert attention from his impeachment trial and other problems in the US.
For the foreign policy establishment in India, it is rather obvious now that the US commander-in-chief isn’t reading the memos originating from New Delhi on matters such as Kashmir.