Historically India has never encouraged international mediation over J&K & Trump knows this
President Donald Trump is known for irrational behaviour, brash statements and outright lies. It is for the analysts to determine whether it is disruptive diplomacy, calculated risk taking, deliberate mischief or plain falsehood. The world is constantly searching for some method in his
madness. His latest statement on Kashmir takes the cake.
Trump’s explicit statement in the presence of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Washington that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited him to mediate or arbitrate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir created a flutter, which has not died down even after India and the US made it clear that there was no truth in the claim.
Those who have been keeping an eye on the Trump’s lies have calculated that he has exceeded 10,000 terminological inexactitudes.
Whether it was a habitual expression of post truth or an open offer to India and Pakistan, even Imran Khan could not have believed it.
Mediation between India and Pakistan is a dream of all those who aspire to win a Nobel Prize for Peace, as anyone who can find a formula to end the stand-off between the two nuclear armed neighbours is a sure winner of the coveted honour.
But after the Tashkent fiasco, in which India lost Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who was stressed out under pressure from the mediators to make concessions to Pakistan, we have decided that no third party involvement will be permitted.
This was further strengthened by the Shimla Agreement, which stipulated that neither side shall internationalise bilateral issues.
But despite all these, several world leaders, particularly Secretaries General of the United Nations and US Presidents have repeatedly expressed willingness to mediate between India and Pakistan.
While Pakistan encourages these moves, India has categorically rejected them. Taking India’s sensitivities into account, world leaders now say that they are willing to use their good offices if both the parties agree.
We must admit that many countries genuinely misunderstand the Indian position because we tend to brief them whenever there are terrorist attacks or major incidents on the border and urge them to impress upon Pakistan the need to abandon cross border terrorism as a policy and to establish peace in South Asia.
Moreover, Jammu and Kashmir is shown as a “disputed territory” on the UN maps.
Visiting Pakistan Prime Ministers in Washington are known to have only India on their agenda. Senator Jesse Helms, as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, introduced the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto to the Senate as “Prime Minister of India” after an hour long conversation with her in his chamber.
When the whole House burst into laughter, Helms apologised and said, “It is entirely her fault. During our long conversation, she spoke only about India and not a word of Pakistan.”
Bhutto was visibly embarrassed. It is quite possible that Imran Khan did the same to Donald Trump.
Among the UN Secretaries General, Boutros Ghali used to take pride in the fact that he knew both the Indian and Pakistani leaders very well and he would find a solution if only India had agreed.
He used to say this to visiting Indian delegations, who would politely nod and say nothing. On one occasion, when Ghali said he was willing to mediate, an Indian Minister of External Affairs, perhaps absentmindedly, told him that India would welcome such an initiative.
Ghali was taken aback and asked our Permanent Representative whether there was any change in Indian policy. The Indian Permanent Representative went to the extent of giving in writing to the Secretary General that the Minister was misunderstood.
The problem with third party mediation is that such mediators tend to ask both sides to compromise for the sake of peace and security without considering the merits of the case, as it happened in Tashkent.
Since India is categorical that J&K is an integral part of India and the only concession possible is declaring the Line of Control (LoC) as the international border, we believe that any mediation will only harm and not help our interests.
Pakistan is aware of this and raises mediation only to convince the world that India is rigid and unreasonable. If Trump is looking for the Nobel Prize, he should focus on getting the North Koreans to denuclearise themselves.
Theories about the reason for Trump to have waded into the Kashmir waters are legion. Some say that it was to throw everyone out of gear to finally think of a solution to the old problem.
Others believe that this was to gladden Imran Khan in return for a solution in Afghanistan. Still others say it was to get Modi into trouble.
But no one can say for sure whether it was a simple gaffe or a deep game plan to bring peace to South Asia.
Some leaders from Kashmir have welcomed mediation by Trump as the best solution. We have to wait for the next tweet from Trump to know the real post truth.
(The writer is a former Ambassador of India and Governor for India of the IAEA. He is also the Chairman, Academic Council and Director, NSS Academy of Civil Services and Director General of the Kerala International Centre)
(Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are those of the author’s alone and not necessarily those of The Lede)