A little more than a month into Joe Biden’s presidency, the United States has played the Big Brother by bringing quarreling south Asian nations — India, Pakistan, and China — on the dialogue table to ensure greater stability in the region long considered a nuclear flashpoint.
India and Pakistan have reached an agreement to uphold the ceasefire on the de facto borders of Jammu and Kashmir for “mutually beneficial and sustainable peace”, potentially bringing an end to several years of hostilities and countless loss of lives and property.
The two countries, partitioned in 1947, have agreed to address “each other’s core issues”. Pakistan has stated that its only dispute with India is over Kashmir. New Delhi is yet to react to the statement but has sent out feelers for possible diplomatic negotiations.
On India’s eastern front, it has reached an agreement with China to de-escalate the border situation in Ladakh, formerly a part of J-K. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has claimed that India hasn’t lost any territory to China but independent reports suggest otherwise.
The US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that the Biden administration since the outset had urged India and Pakistan to reduce tensions. Biden took oath as the president on 20 January this year.
“You’ve heard me say from this podium and others from this administration say that we had called on the parties to reduce tensions along the LoC by returning to that 2003 ceasefire agreement,” he said at a press briefing in Washington yesterday.
Price added that the US has “been very clear that we condemn the terrorists who seek to infiltrate across the LoC.” Recently, the Indian parliament was informed that infiltration in 2020 had ebbed to its lowest ever since the outbreak of militancy in the late 1980s.
Interestingly, in his first foreign policy statement as the new president of the US just weeks ago, Biden had noted with concern the growing influence of China globally and emphasised the need for mutual cooperation, among nations friendly to the US but rivals to each other.
Addressing an online forum of a Washington think-tank, Stimson Centre, this weekend, Pakistan’s envoy to the US Asad Majeed Khan had urged the “the US to play its role.”
Sushant Singh, a senior fellow at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, wrote in the India Forum that “more public engagements and meetings are likely to be announced soon” between India and Pakistan.
“The more nuanced policies of the Biden administration in the United States towards the Indo-Pacific and Afghanistan, while broadly in continuation from the Trump administration, have influenced New Delhi’s decision-making matrix,” he wrote.
Singh, however, cautioned: “The official mantra from both the sides about this week’s decision is ‘cautious optimism’ and there is abundant reason for exercising caution. Modi’s government has pursued a flip-flop policy towards Pakistan.”
The ceasefire announcement has been welcomed by Kashmiri political parties across the spectrum. Earlier, shortly after the Biden administration had taken charge, New Delhi ended restrictions on high-speed internet in J-K.
Even as the Modi government had officially refused the former US President Donald Trump’s offer for mediation just days before unilaterally abrogating J-K’s limited-autonomy; the Trump administration’s indifference in its wake led Pakistan further closer to China.
The hyper-nationalist Modi government — famous for its “we will attack them on their territory” stance on its neighbours – projects itself as immune to foreign intervention but has softened its stand after Biden won the historic general election in the US.