When ‘the most powerful man on the planet’ offers to be the ‘mediator’ between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, to my mind, his move essentially conveys the importance of the dispute. The fact that attacks like the Pulwama blast on February 14, 2019, carried out by a 20-year-old Kashmiri, can push the two neighbouring nations to a nuclear flashpoint itself explains the sensitivity of the conflict — and the very urgent need to resolve it.
On July 22, US President Donald Trump offered to be the 'mediator' on the Kashmir issue as he met Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, at the White House where the two leaders reportedly discussed a host of issues.
Jab They Met: Donald Trump greets Imran Khan and then, stuns those listening. (Photo: Reuters)
But Trump’s stunning claim, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue, triggered a massive political row. Trump claimed that Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue when they met in Osaka, Japan, on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in June 2019.
Trump’s claims rocked Parliament. Holding that Kashmir is a bilateral issue and no third party can intervene, the Opposition demanded a clarification from Modi on Trump’s controversial remarks.
Amid a ruckus, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that Modi had never made any such request to Trump and stressed that all outstanding issues with Pakistan can be discussed only bilaterally.
But then, both the government and Opposition are seemingly banking on worn-out formulas — which never worked on the ground.
On the one hand, to settle typical political scores, the Opposition has questioned Modi’s integrity. By not trusting his government’s clarification on the floor of the House, the Opposition has behaved in an irresponsible way. This has resulted in India being seen as washing its dirty lined before the world community.
On the other hand, the government’s stand that engagement with Islamabad is subject to an end to cross-border terrorism can also be questioned.
If talks on Kashmir are subject to an end of terror, then what will be left to talk about once terror comes to end? And why will such talks be needed anyway when peace is restored?
Moreover, if cricket and terror can go together, if trade and terror can go together, why can’t talks be held to actually end that very terror?
New Delhi may not approve of any international intervention in its internal issues — but the bitter reality is that the BJP’s iron hand policy on Kashmir has internationalised the issue to a level that now, the US is making an awkward offer for mediation.
In the absence of any dialogue or long-term policy on Kashmir, the BJP has mostly banked on killing militants and glamorising that toll. But if the statistics are to be believed, even those figures reportedly haven’t been all that impressive.
On July 17, Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy told the Lok Sabha that over 960 militants and 413 security personnel have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir in the last five years. Well, this means that, on an average, for every two militants killed, a jawan lost his life.
How many more? A large number of security personnel have lost their lives fighting militancy in Kashmir. (Photo: Reuters)
In the absence of dialogue, public alienation is only growing with more youth picking up arms in Kashmir. This year alone, despite the relentless anti-militancy operations that killed around 125 militants in the first six months, around 270 are reportedly active in the Valley.
Then, there are international terror groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic State, eagerly eyeing a chance to create space in India — presumably through Kashmir.
Such groups have already inspired some local militants. Around a dozen militants linked to Islamic State ideology alone were killed over the last two years or so.
After the killing of Zakir Musa, who headed Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda in May 2019, the international outfit is openly focusing on Kashmir.
In the first week of July, Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri asked the 'Mujahideen in Kashmir' to inflict “unrelenting blows” on the Indian Army and the government in Jammu and Kashmir in a message released by the terror group’s media wing.
In the 14-minute message titled “Don't Forget Kashmir”, Zawahiri also brought to light Pakistan’s involvement in fuelling cross-border terrorism in Kashmir.
But the irony is that while taking a Yankee claim as more authentic than desi clarifications, many of us are truly forgetting the need to resolve Kashmir.
In the last three decades of armed conflict, the Kashmir deadlock didn’t see any breakthrough, seemingly due to the lack of political will, or maybe, that strength. But with a strongman like Modi at the helm, taking a bold decision to resolve Kashmir isn’t supposed to be a distant dream.
The controversy aside, Donald Trump’s offer has a perceivable hidden message — that be it mediation or no mediation, Kashmir awaits a resolution for sustainable peace in south Asia.
And if the ‘most powerful man on the planet’ can encourage the US administration to hold a dialogue with the Afghan Talibans, why can’t New Delhi talk to Islamabad after taking the people of Kashmir, especially those who have picked up guns, into confidence?
No matter which way the controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s statement goes, the United States has literally played its Trump card.
It now depends on New Delhi and Islamabad to carry forward the game of international diplomacy — at least for the sake of much-needed peace — linked to Kashmir