WASHINGTON, D.C.(TIP): President Donald Trump left India shell-shocked by turning the decades-long U.S. non-interference policy on its head when he offered to mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve the long-simmering Kashmir dispute.
Even more shocking was his claim, during an Oval Office meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on July 22, that it was India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has suggested that he get involved and help both New Delhi and Islamabad resolve this problem.
India reaction to President Trump’s remarks were fast and furious. The spokesman for Ministry of External Affairs Raveesh Kumar flatly denied that Prime Minister Modi had ever made such a suggestion and asserted that “No such request has been made by Prime Minister to the U.S. President. It has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally. Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross border terrorism.”
“The Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India and Pakistan bilaterally,” Kumar’s statement added.
Even long-time career diplomats dealing with South Asia, including those in his own administration, and other diplomatic sources India Abroad spoke to were also shocked by Trump’s offer to mediate and found his contention that it was Modi himself asked him to do so “incredulous and incredible.”
Immediately after news broke of Trump’s offer of mediation in Kashmir, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah was quick to react, with a tweet that said, “Is Govt of India going to call @realDonaldTrump a liar or has there been an undeclared shift in India’s position on third party involvement in #Kashmir?”
Another erstwhile J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti welcomed Trump’s offer to mediate the Kashmir issue, saying, “Welcome such a positive development laden with potential to establish permanent peace in the subcontinent.”
The diplomatic bombshell came during Trump’s meeting with Prime Minister Khan in the Oval office, when a reporter asked about the other security threat in South Asia — besides Afghanistan — the Kashmir dispute which has remained “unresolved even by the United Nations and even by the U.S.,” and if President Trump is “going to make any kind of submission and intervention?”
Khan taking the question first, said, “I will be asking President Trump. He’s — it’s the most powerful country in the world, the United States. It can play the most important role in bringing peace in the subcontinent.”
“You know, there are over a — over a billion and a quarter people in the subcontinent. They are held hostage to the issue of Kashmir. And I feel that only the most powerful state, headed by President Trump, can bring the two countries together,” he said.
Khan added, “From my point, I can tell you, we have tried our best. We’ve made all overtures to India to start dialogue, resolve our differences through dialogue. But unfortunately, we haven’t made headways as yet. But I’m hoping that President Trump would push this process.”
And this was where Trump jumped in, recalling that “I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago, and we talked about this subject. And he actually said, ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?’ I said, ‘Where?’ He said, ‘Kashmir.’ Because this has been going on for many, many years. I was surprised at how long; it’s been going on a long —”
Khan chimed in, pointing out, “Seventy years,” to which Trump replied, “And I think they’d like to see it resolved. And I think you’d like to see it resolved. And if I can help, I would love to be a mediator. It shouldn’t be — I mean, it’s impossible to believe two incredible countries that are very, very smart, with very smart leadership, can’t solve a problem like that.”
“But if you want me to mediate or arbitrate, I would be willing to do that,” he reiterated.
The Pakistan Prime Minister, hardly able to contain himself, gushed: “President, I can tell you that, right now, you would have the prayers of over a billion people if you can mediate and resolve this issue.”
And, now, there was no stopping Trump, and obviously, not just the mandarins in New Delhi, but all South Asia watchers and the D.C., who have followed the Kashmir issue for decades, were probably listening in horror, when he declared, “It should be resolved. So, it — but he (Modi) asked me the same, so I think there’s something. So maybe we’ll speak to him or I’ll speak to him, and we’ll see if we can do something because I’ve heard so much about Kashmir. Such a beautiful name.”
“It’s supposed to be such a beautiful part of the world. But right now there’s just bombs all over the place. They say everywhere you go; you have bombs and it’s a terrible situation. Been going on for many years. If I can do anything to help that, let me know,” he added.