Kashmir: Donald Trump and US govt speak different languages
US President Donald Trump has made a habit of hitting headlines more with his off-the-cuff remarks than serious policy decisions. In the past one month, Donald Trump has made some comments on Kashmir that show that he is not in sync with his own government.
Donald Trump has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir at least on three occasions in the past one month. And, all these occasions, the official position of the US government was that it favours a bilateral settlement of the dispute between India and Pakistan.
On July 19 -- over two weeks before the Narendra Modi government's move on Article 370, Donald Trump said he would "love" to mediate on Kashmir. His remarks came during a joint press conference with the visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in the United States.
Donald Trump even claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked him to mediate on Kashmir when they met in Japan during G20 summit in June. India immediate refuted the claim. Later, US officials set the record straight stating that India had not requested mediation rather Donald Trump proposed it as he is "friends" with the leadership of both India and Pakistan.
His second offer to mediate in Kashmir came on August 2, when he said he would "certainly intervene" in Kashmir if both India and Pakistan ask him to do so. This time around, he retreated from his claim of mediation offer coming from PM Modi. India objected to the offer once again.
Three days later, the Modi government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, which was bifurcated into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. The decision will take effect on October 31. The Modi government's move sent Pakistan into a tizzy. Pakistan has been trying to mobilise international opinion against the Kashmir move. Among other countries, it also approached the US over the matter.
Meanwhile, China jumped into the fray and pushed for a UN deliberation on Kashmir. Pakistan worked the phone to secure the US support in the view of Donald Trump calling situation in Kashmir explosive and offering to mediate.
But after India moved swiftly, the US shot down China's proposal that the UN Security Council (UNSC) express "concern" over abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is reported to have told, prior to August 16 UNSC deliberation, to visiting Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan in New Delhi that India would be taking note of the stand UNSC members would take during closed-door deliberation initiative by China at the behest of Pakistan.
This was yet another occasion that the US government took a different stand than the one taken by Donald Trump in his public statements.
Three days later on August 19, Donald Trump had telephonic conversation with PM Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan. Now, Donald Trump favoured reducing tension in the region. He told Imran Khan to "moderate [Pakistan's] rhetoric" in order to normalise situation.
On August 22, Donald Trump proposed to mediate on Kashmir for the third time. However, Donald Trump's language had changed by this time to "ready to assist" from "was asked to mediate" and "would certainly intervene". India rejected the offer once again and on August 25, a senior US official told news agency IANS that revoking special status was an internal matter of India.
"India's decision to rescind Article 370 in Kashmir is an internal decision," the agency quoted the official as saying. The official went on to add that the decision has "regional implications. And President Trump will likely want to hear how Prime Minister Modi intends to calm regional tensions in light of this significant move."
Reports suggest that since meeting Imran Khan last month in Washington, DC, Donald Trump has made a gradual shift of stance over Kashmir to be in sync with the US state department and the one considered more in alignment with India.
In this background, PM Modi and President Trump would be meeting in Biarritz, France on the sidelines of G7 meeting. India is not a member of the G7. PM Modi is attending the meet on personal invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron.