Azhar Azam*
Can Trump mediate in Kashmir?

Murky clouds of yet another intense conflict between India and Pakistan are looming as the government of India (GOI) introduced a resolution in the parliament to repeal the autonomous status of Indian-held Kashmir and to split the disputed region into two territories. The motion flashed an immediate and fierce ire from the country’s opposition parties.

In an extraordinary move, Indian authorities deployed tens of thousands of additional paramilitary troops to initiate a clampdown in Kashmir – a nuclear flash point that has so far tugged the two South Asian adversaries into war twice apart from ceaseless clashes.

On August 5 – tourists were asked to leave, calls were made to stockpile food and fuel, phones and internet services were suspended, schools and universities were closed, and state leaders were placed under house arrest in the Muslim-majority valley.

While the two arch rivals also continue to exchange heavy shelling across the line of control (LOC) including alleged use of cluster bombs by Indian military – Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan warned that the conditions could blow up into a regional crisis and pressed the US President Donald Trump to assert his commitment about Kashmir mediation.

On Thursday, the US President Donald Trump reaffirmed his offer to mediate on Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan – a call New Delhi spurned again, maintaining that all the rows including longstanding Kashmir dispute would only be resolved bilaterally.

US profound silence on deployment of massive additional Indian military troops, on the bifurcation of Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir, and on the imminent crackdown on Kashmiris implies that Washington has quietly endorsed New Delhi’s provocative measures in the valley.

But since the US comprehends that without Pakistan, durable peace in Afghanistan would remain an illusion – it is avoiding to taking Indian side publicly.

On the other hand, Pakistan intuits the US decades-old sporadic regional strategy but because peace in Afghanistan is tightly interlaced with its own national security interests – it is increasingly determined to facilitate the Afghan peace process.

India has grave concerns over its isolation from Afghan peace process. Since long, New Delhi has been cagey of Afghan Taliban’s growing influence in Afghanistan, perceiving it a threat to its national security. While it has provided significant financial and military aid to the Kabul administration to crush Taliban, it is somewhat deplorable for India to be barred from crucial peace talks.

After conceding Afghanistan, it would be excruciating for India to forfeit Kashmir too. Just before the latest terrorist incidences in Pakistan, Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval travelled to Kashmir and suggested to deploy further military troops in the disputed territory. In June 2018, the wrangled territory was brought under Governor’s rule, which was followed by the implementation of President’s rule after six months.

Pakistan indicts that India is aiding a separatist organization Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) in its Balochistan province to destabilize its fate-changer China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and to distract its focus from Kashmir. Both Pakistan and the US has sanctioned BLA as a terrorist organization.

Last year, Pakistani intelligence agencies captured a working Indian navy’s secret service officer Kulbhushan Yadav from Balochistan who was involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan to sabotage Chinese Belt and Road’s crown jewels, CPEC and Gwadar port.

While both India and the US have been critical of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as well as its Pakistani arm of CPEC, it provides them a common ground to strategically unify in the region against their respective rivals.

As the US key foreign policy objective, to control Chinese growing influence, largely hinges on India – Trump may not be in a position to enrage India by effectively forcing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve Kashmir dispute.

The US president would therefore rather pursue a vague diplomatic regional strategy to offering himself as a mediator but pragmatically he wouldn’t play any emphatic role for the dispute resolution. It is highly likely that he would rather overlook Indian aggression and human rights violations in Kashmir.

Given the US wider foreign policy objectives in the region, Pakistan should not put high stakes on Trump to settle the age-old Indo-Pak squabble. Islamabad should scrutinize Trump’s dispassionate and reticent offer on Kashmir mediation in the backdrop of his campaign to end the US 19-year impasse in Afghanistan.





*Azhar Azam
is a Pakistan-based author and writes on geopolitical issues and
regional conflicts. His thoughts and opinions have appeared in several
domestic and international publications. He may be contacted at 
axar.axam@gmail.com

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