WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump may have to mediate between Pakistan and India sooner than he expected while making this offer, as tensions over Kashmir once again threaten to spin out of control, according to diplomatic observers.
At a July 22 White House meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Trump offered to help resolve the 70-year old Kashmir dispute, claiming that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also asked him to be a mediator.
Although India denied ever asking the US president to play this role, Mr Trump reiterated his offer on Thursday, noting that this dispute had remained unresolved for too long. India has rejected his latest offer too, although Prime Minister Khan told Mr Trump that he would earn “the prayers of over a billion people” if he brought peace to the region.
With two major developments shaping up simultaneously, the intensity of the need for a third-party intervention was felt in Washington this week as well. “The coming days and weeks could bring two major developments with big-time ramifications for regional stability,” wrote Michael Kugelman in a tweet.
Mr Kugelman, an authority on South Asian affairs at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Center, noted that while one of these developments could bring peace to Afghanistan, the other is likely to increase tension between the region’s two nuclear-armed nations.
The first development is a “US-Taliban deal facilitated by Pakistan, leading (possibly) to a future Afghan government with a Taliban role”, he wrote.
The other is “India’s abrogation of Article 35A (of the Indian constitution) for Kashmir”, which could deprive the disputed territory of its special status, turning it into just another Indian state, he added.
“This is serious stuff,” Mr Kugelman warned.
The US media also highlighted the Kashmir issue on Sunday, noting that the latest tension between Pakistan and India “come amid the Indian government’s evacuation order for tourists and Hindu pilgrims and a troop buildup in its part of the region”.
A report in the Washington Post pointed out that such “measures have sparked fears in Kashmir that New Delhi is planning to scrap an Indian constitutional provision that forbids Indians from outside the region from buying land in the Muslim-majority territory”.
The New York Times also published this report, noting that in recent days, “India has deployed at least 10,000 troops in Kashmir, with media reports of a further 25,000 ordered to one of the world’s most militarised regions”.
Posts on the social media warned that doing away with the constitutional provisions that protect Kashmir’s status was “stoking fires in the region”.
The posts speculated that one of the main reasons for the Indian move could be its disappointment with the restoration of Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process, “which could seriously curtail India’s influence in that country”.
One post noted that India was also concerned about Pakistan’s efforts to restore its ties with the United States and with Washington’s decision to resume repair and refurbishing of the F-16 fighter jets Pakistan has been using.
Some posts also noted that at a recent congressional hearing, the nominated head of the US armed forces, Gen Mark A. Milley, advocated maintaining strong ties with the Pakistani military.
Reports in the Post and NYT noted that recent escalations had come amid “offers by President Trump to mediate to resolve the Kashmir issue”.
The US media pointed out that several other governments had also issued travel advisories, urging its citizens to leave India-held Kashmir.
The reports noted that in its election manifesto earlier this year, Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party promised to do away with special rights for Kashmiris under India’s constitution.
“Rumours continued swirling in the region on Sunday, ranging from the disarming of Kashmiri police forces, to the Indian military taking over local police installations, to a sweeping military crackdown being planned ahead of India’s independence day on Aug 15,” one report added.
Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2019