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There was a pandemonium in India over President Donald Trump’s statement on the Kashmir issue.

At a White  House press conference Monday (July 22) with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Donald  Trump said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate the Kashmir conflict.

Trump said that Modi had discussed the subject with him during their meeting in Osaka, Japan, last month.

“I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago, and talking of the subject, and he said ‘would you like to be a mediator?’, and I asked where? and he said Kashmir.’ I said if I could mediate, I will help.”

“I would love to help on Kashmir,” he said, adding it is a “terrible situation in Kashmir…bombs going off all the time.”

Trump Kashmir Bombshell Raises Questions About Modi’s Political Judgment

President Donald Trump, who was singing a different tune about Pakistan two years ago, now realizes his plans for Iran and Afghanistan require stability on the Washington-Islamabad axis, writes The Wire Editor Siddharth Varadarajan. “This is precisely the context of Imran Khan’s visit to the White House, and Trump’s remarks on mediation with India are clearly a product of this process,” he argues.

It was a fundamental mistake to put so many eggs in the US basket and neglect key relationships with Moscow, Beijing and Tehran, Varadarajan says adding: Above all, the absence of a coherent, rational policy towards Pakistan has created a vacuum that is not in India’s interest.

“True or False, Trump Kashmir Bombshell Raises Questions About Modi’s Political Judgment,” is the title of the comment by Siddharth Varadarajan, a veteran journalist.

He says Trump’s statement leaves us with only three possibilities.

First, that Trump is deliberately lying. Second, that he is a fantasist who plucked the supposed details of his conversation with Modi out of thin air. Third, that there was some pretty radical miscommunication between Trump and Modi in Osaka. And fourth, that the Indian side is not telling the truth.

The US has now put out a short statement by assistant secretary of state Alice Wells that “While Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss, the Trump administration welcomes Pakistan and India sitting down and the United States stands ready to assist.”

With this, presumably, both the State Department and Indian Foreign Ministry hope to contain the fallout Trump’s remarks have led to but things are not so simple.

According to Varadarajan, the entire episode has highlighted a fundamental problem for the Indian side: While the whole world realized early on that the US under Trump was not a trustworthy partner, Modi has led India into an even tighter embrace with Washington. And there is no telling what the eventual price will be.

If a world leader whom Modi has so assiduously appeased can be so indifferent to India’s well-known position on Kashmir, what does that tell us about Modi’s sense of judgment?

The policy of appeasement

To be fair, Modi began the process of doubling down on the strategic partnership almost as soon as he became prime minister, when Barack Obama was US president. Signing the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in August 2016 meant he was allowing India to be used as a springboard for US military power in the region, Varadarajan recalled. Those were the heady days of the ‘Asia Pivot’ when the US’s Cold War with China began to first take shape and Modi and his advisors naively thought India could buy security by bandwagoning with the US.

In the last two-and-a-half years, as Washington’s closest allies have grown wary of the way the US administration has upended key US policies on Iran, climate change and trade, Modi and Japan’s Shinzo Abe are perhaps the only major world leaders still willing to gamble on Trump. Even so, Japan has actively sought to de-escalate tensions between the US and Iran while India is content to watch  the slow slide to conflict from the sidelines.

Undeterred by mounting evidence of the US under Trump playing a destabilizing role in West Asia, Modi has gone ahead and signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), further committing the Indian military to a closer relationship with the Pentagon.

The fundamental mistake Modi and his advisers have made is to assume personal chemistry can somehow generate positive results for India even when the underlying factors indicate otherwise. Worse, the pursuit of goals has also often been wrong-headed, Varadarajan concluded.

Trump’s statement echoes in Indian parliament

US President Donald Trump’s statement on mediation in Kashmir issue was echoed in the Indian parliament Tuesday (July 23).

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday categorically denied U.S. President Donald Trump’s claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought his help in resolving the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan.

“No such request was made by the Prime Minister to the U.S. President,” Mr. Jaishankar told the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House of Indian Parliament).

The issue was raised by Congress member Anand Sharma and CPI’s D. Raja. While Mr. Raja sought to know if the government had changed its position on Kashmir, Mr. Sharma insisted the Prime Minister should inform the House  what he told Mr. Trump.

I would like to reiterate that India’s position is that all issues with Pakistan will be discussed only bilaterally and no third party will be involved in mediation. Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross-border terrorism,” the Minister said, adding that the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration would  continue to be the only basis to resolve all issues between both the nations.

However, the Opposition was not satisfied with his reply. With the Opposition members insisting on a reply from the Prime Minister himself, the session was adjourned.

The issue was raised in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) as well, with Congress member Kodikunnil Suresh giving notice seeking an adjournment motion. Congress members raised slogans as soon as the House assembled.

CLP leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “India has bowed before the U.S.”

Kashmiri leaders welcome US push for dialogue on Kashmir

Not surprisingly, senior leaders in Indian-controlled Kashmir, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Tuesday welcomed Donald Trump’s offer of mediation and his administration’s stress on the India-Pakistan dialogue on the Kashmir issue.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is leader of Awami Action Committee and Syed Ali Geelani leads Jamat-e-Islami. These both parties are now part of an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organizations formed on 9 March 1993, as a united political front to raise the cause of Kashmiri.

“Being the most affected party, the people of Kashmir want an early resolution to the lingering Kashmir conflict. I have been urging for dialogue at all levels. Every effort, pushing India and Pakistan in that direction, is welcomed by the people of Jammu & Kashmir,”said Mirwaiz.

He said Trump’s statement was reiteration of the fact that the world powers “were alive to the Kashmir issue and desired a dialogue-based solution.”

Mirwaiz said the U.S. government’s terminology, “whether ‘mediation’ or ‘assistance,’ only directs to one fact that the world powers were eager to see India and Pakistan sitting across the table on Kashmir.”

Another Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani said, “US has to play its role for the freedom of Kashmir. We are thankful to Pakistan for raising the issue of Kashmir. It’s a long-pending dispute and has consumed more than 3 generations. It continues to threaten existence of yet another generation in Jammu & Kashmir,” said Geelani.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com


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