TRUMP AND MEDIATION

Whether or not there is truth in US president’s words, India cannot turn its back on dialogue,
The Kashmir issue has been pending for 70 years. With positions hardening, it is becoming more and more intractable and complicated. It is in situations like these, coupled with global interests which are not necessarily inspired by moral questions of ensuring peace, that space for foreign mediation is created. For India which maintains sovereign rights over Kashmir and has maintained a consistent stand that Kashmir is an integral part of the country and any dispute must be resolved bilaterally with Pakistan without any third party intervention, US president Donald Trump’s remarks in a meeting with Pakistan premier Imran Khan that the Indian prime minister had requested him to mediate on Kashmir.

It would be pointless hair-splitting over remarks from a person known to be both loquacious and a pathological liar, though Modi’s own style of diplomacy has been far from conventional. The far more significant questions are whether USA indeed would be interested in intervening, or atleast facilitating India and Pakistan process of engagement, and what would be in the best interests of India to do. The storm that Trump has raised has come close on the heels of initiation of Afghanistan peace talks in which USA, Russia, China and Pakistan are on board but India has foolishly squandered the opportunity of being on that peace table. The last time India and Pakistan talked and managed to build a structured composite dialogue on a host of issues including Kashmir was when USA intervened in Afghanistan, making it imperative for the super-power to broker peace between India and Pakistan. Whether or not America worked behind the scenes to get them to sit across the table, both India and Pakistan made substantial gains that were frittered away after the Mumbai attack.

Since then, there has been a dire need for both the countries to resume the composite dialogue and address all the bilateral issues. Only a failure to take an initiative to this end at the sub-continental level has created space for global interests. India and Pakistan have mutual interests in peace and dialogue is the only way out and the only way forward. Kashmir is one of the most complex of all the existing disputes because it is not simply a territorial dispute; it also involves the people of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control. Sustainable peace in the region necessitates inclusion of these people to address the trust deficit not only on the Indian side but also the Pakistani side. There is a feeling among a large section of population on both sides that neither India and Pakistan have been sincere to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Such prolonged anxieties are pushing Jammu and Kashmir to dangerous extremes which also pose a challenge to both the countries. India and Pakistan, thus, need to sit and talk, negotiate as well as sort out issues in their respectively administered territories of the state. The more eagerly and pro-actively all the stake-holders participate, the more their chances of getting a better share in the bargaining and an enduring peace that satisfies all sides. Sustainable and just peace should be in keeping with the aspirations and will of the people of Kashmir on both sides of the borders. It shouldn’t be reduced to a cosmetic affair to suit the interests of USA. It should suit the interests of the people and nations of South Asia.