Last week, the color of the carpet Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out for US President Donald Trump was red and the streets of New Delhi bloodied in the worst communal riots of the decade.
However, in a press briefing before flying back, Mr. Trump refused to comment on the violence — “[I leave it] up to India, hope they make the right decision” — but reiterated which doesn’t go well with India at all: Kashmir mediation.
Calling Kashmir “a thorn… for long time” “a big problem between India and Pakistan,” Mr. Trump added, “If anything I can do to mediate, I will do.” The audacity comes from his belief that he shares a bankable rapport with both the premiers.
The offer soon hit headlines across the globe. But it was not exclusive as such; the President has been saying, and repeating, the mediation offer. The streak started soon after the aerial dog-fight in February 2019, when India-Pakistan were on the brink of a war; on 28 February, Mr. Trump announced that US was involved in mediating the tensions.
The first major statement came during Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan’s visit to Washington DC in July 2019. Mr. Trump said in the press briefing that he would “love to be a mediator” and added, “If you want me to mediate or arbitrate, I would be willing to do that.”
India didn’t like that. But what they didn’t like at all was Mr. Trump’s claim from the briefing that Mr. Modi had asked him to arbitrate during their last meeting. India quickly responded that it was a bilateral issue and Mr. Modi never did what his counterpart claimed.
Merely a week later, on 1 August, he repeated the offer from the White House, telling a reporter that “if they [India-Pakistan] wanted me to, I would certainly intervene.”
Four days later, Mr. Modi’s government scrapped Kashmir’s decades-old special status, downtrodden its status to a federally governed territory. Kashmir exploded on the front pages of international and national publications. Reactions poured in from top world leaders, including the US President: “We spoke last night about Kashmir… the Prime Minister [Mr. Modi] really feels he has it under control. I know they speak with Pakistan, and I’m sure that they will be able to do something that will be very good. We spoke about it last night at great length,” said Mr. Trump on the sidelines of the G7 summit in France.
And then, he was unstoppable; on 29 August, 9 September, 23 September, 25 September, and 21 January 2020 – offering “mediation”, “arbitration”, “intervention” or anything, asking to “work it out. Just work it out! You gotta work it out!”
However, Mr. Trump isn’t the first US Premier to do so. As back as 1962, after Sino-Indian war ended; US had helped out India with defence equipment in exchange for a price: mediation with Pakistan on Kashmir. The Hindu quotes Rudra Chaudahri, a professor at Ashoka University, that then Indian PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, accepted because he was in shock after facing defeat at the hands of China.
Though, India regained its confidence and the talks were swept under the carpet and eventually ended in 1963, with Mr. Nehru making it clear: India would never give up Kashmir Valley.
The newly elected President of the US, Bill Clinton, in 1993, also indicated that he wants to mediate on Kashmir between the South Asian neighbours. A month after reiterating the same in the UN General Assembly, the Assistant Secretary of State, Robin Raphel questioned the validity of Instrument of Accession.
But again, since the Nehru episode, India has never agreed to it and remains in continuous denial. Why? In Simla Agreement, Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto signed that the Kashmir conflict shall be resolved through bilateral negotiation. In 1999’s Lahore declaration, Nawaz Sharif and Atal Behari Vajpayee also nodded on the bilateral nature of the conflict.
When it came to answer the Why, India recalled the duo agreements in the parliament as a response to refute Mr. Trump’s offer of mediation. It has been so much so that Mr. Trump’s mediation offer has now op-eds wondering what the situation would be like if it happened. A few believe it would totally side with India while the others are afraid of his unpredictable – not smart – nature of life.
Whatsoever, be it UN’s Chief’s “deeply concerned remark” on Kashmir, offering mediation, or any other international leaders and governments – including Nepal asking if any help is needed, India keeps turning her back.
Meanwhile, a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report claimed that the July press briefing of Mr. Trump and Mr. Khan had not gone well with India. “The episode may have contributed to India’s August moves,” CRS added.
With Mr. Modi’s government at helm – considering Delhi riots and everything else in the country – any conflict, from streets to regional, doesn’t seem to have any mediation – let alone Kashmir.
Yashraj Sharma is a Features Writer and Assistant Editor at The Kashmir Walla.
The comment appeared in our 2-8 March 2020 print edition.