Trump’s penchant for mediation

By K.N. Pandita

No US president ever expressed his inclination for mediation in Kashmir dispute as does Donald Trump. In recent past, he has repeated his willingness and India declines it outright. Recently in World Economic Meet at Davos, where Pakistan Prime Minister raised the Kashmir issue, Trump repeated his offer for mediation.

As usual, the Indian foreign office immediately rejected it with no need for clarification. New Delhi’s oft-repeated stand is that terror and peace talks do not go together.

On several occasions, Trump has accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorist organizations on her soil and demanded that Pakistan dismantle the terrorist structure. US State Department has even identified and designated some leaders of terrorist organizations based in Pakistan. Only a week or two back State Department officials including the Minister of State desired Pakistan to do more to wriggle out of the net of FATF. The US has said in clear words that terrorists based in Pakistan are involved in destabilizing peace in Afghanistan and the Indian part of J&K.

So far the US has not given Pakistan a clean chit about no involvement in Kashmir. That is precisely the argument of New Delhi. Why then does Trump persist with mediation narrative? That is what I mean when I say that the US-Pak relationship has to be seen and analysed from a different trajectory. Why has Trump lately developed a penchant for mediation? This is a baffling question. No doubt he is eccentric but mind you he has a method in his madness.

The nature and scope of the US-Pak relationship are comprehensible only when examined and analysed through the prism of geopolitical strategy. From day one of its existence Pakistan fell in the lap of the Anglo-American bloc which had visualized the strategic importance of the region in resisting southward expansion of the then Soviet Union’s power and influence. This realplitik was at the root of Anglo-American policy of scuttling India’s Kashmir case at the Security Council and bringing the aggressor and the aggrieved at par. Taking a cue from this, Pakistan goaded the US into practically improving and strengthening her military power manifold. When India got sucked into the Soviet bloc Islamabad made maximum use of emerging regional alignment. Usually, Pakistan regimes in general and her army, in particular, have expected a big largesse from Washington in the shape of Kashmir as a prize for her loyalty to the imperialist bloc. Pakistan has been a beneficiary of Washington’s largesse not only in terms of military hardware and cash doles but also in collaborative geostrategic thrusts. It will be reminded that in the course of the Bangladesh war, the US had moved its 7th fleet into the Bay of Bengal. It will be noted that the US turned Nelson’s eye to Pakistan clandestinely acquiring nuclear components and capability whereas Washington decimated Iraq for the same alleged crime, which ultimately proved a fiasco. Now Trump has turned his ire on Iran and warned her that the US will not allow her to go nuclear. No such warning was issued to Pakistan.

The role of CIA in providing enormous war material and monies to Pakistan for the Afghan mujahedeen fighting the Soviet incursion in Afghanistan gave extraordinary boost to US-Pak relations. Based on Pakistan’s cooperation in Afghan mujahedeen war against the Russians, the US closed its eyes to Pakistan raising the Islamic fundamentalist legions called the Taliban in Afghanistan. One important lesson which Pakistan learnt from the Afghan war is that the US cannot underestimate the importance of Pakistan in geostrategic parameters of the sensitive region.

Two important aspects linked to US-Pak relationship are (a) Significance of Pakistan as the only nuclear power among the Islamic states in the world, and (b) Pakistan is very close to Saudi Arabia and has deployed her elite force to protect the Saudi monarchy from any physical assault. This triangular relationship has so many nuances and the relationship will be maintained at any cost. The fallout of this relationship is variegated but its highlights are (a) US-Iran nuclear-related acrimony, and (b) Trump’s penchant for mediation in Kashmir dispute. Trump wants to keep the two formidable allies in the Muslim world namely Saudi Arabia and Pakistan on his side. But taking into account the size, strength and political arrangement of democratic India into consideration, Trump finds it difficult and rather impossible to do sword-rattling against India, in the same manner in which he is doing against Iran.

Trump is eyeing the second term as the President of the US. If he can bring about some semblance of rapprochement between the two sub-continental countries bogged in a logjam for more than seven decades, he would make it a feather in his cap and sell the achievement to his voters. But the fact is that he is stuck up with Pakistan making no commitment and giving no assurance of dismantling the terror structure on her soil. It may also be inferred that the mediation tantrum is nothing more than eyewash which Iran Khan will be able to sell to the hardliners and jihadis at home. Nonetheless, both Trump and Imran Khan know and are convinced that India will not surrender an inch of Kashmir come what may.

It is clear to both of them that India is determined to recover the areas of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan and China. New Delhi has no illusion about China jumping into the fray once India makes a move of recovering her territory now under illegal occupation. The bifurcation of the erstwhile State of J&K into two Union Territories and separation of Ladakh are calculated steps taken by Indian policy planners. Therefore, even if Trump offers mediation only in the case of PoJK and Gilgit and Baltistan, New Delhi is not going to respond. Accepting mediation in Kashmir dispute by the US gives leverage to Pakistan to stage Kashmir as an internationally recognised dispute. In no case is India going to oblige Pakistan.

However, on Indian side the narrative can change in case there are proven reports of Pakistan dismantling the terrorist edifice, punishing the culprits and respecting ceasefire agreement of 2003 with endorsement by the international community. India may be motivated to discuss the areas of the state under her illegal occupation. If Trumps is honest in his mediating gaffe he should specifically make mention of the areas illegally occupied by Pakistan or ceded by Pakistan to China.

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