India / Trump’s 7 mediation offers show he can't stay away from Kashmir

Hindustan Times : Jan 22, 2020, 12:10 PM
Davos: President Donald Trump can’t keep his hands off Kashmir, apparently. Now, as he said in Davos, with Prime Minister Imran Khan by his side, he wants to “help” resolve the Kashmir issue.

“And if we can help, we certainly will be helping,” he said, referring to the Kashmir issue, which he had said he would be discussing with Khan. And they must have, but the readout issued by the White House about their meeting did not mention it.

Trump has used variations of the offer before using words like “mediate”, “mediation”, ”arbitration” or just, “intervene”.

It has been seven times so far, at least, in some form or the other.

The first offer came on July 22, 2019, during Khan’s first visit to the White House. “If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Trump had said, in response to a direct appeal from Khan. “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.”

Trump had prefaced that offer with a stunning claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also asked him, in fact, to arbitrate during their last meeting.

Response from New Delhi was swift and unequivocal: Modi never invited Trump to mediate and that India considers Kashmir a bilateral issue to be resolved by India and Pakistan.

But no one told Trump about India’s reaction. A week later, on August 1, he repeated it. “If they wanted somebody to intervene or to help them,” Trump said in response to a question from a reporter at the White House about his July 22 offer, adding, “and I spoke to Pakistan about that … I spoke frankly with India about it… if they wanted me to, I would certainly intervene”.

President Trump could be demonstrably nuanced, such as on this occasion in Biarritz, France on August 26: “We spoke last night about Kashmir,” he said to reporters. “And the Prime Minister (Modi) really feels he has it under control. I know they speak with Pakistan, and I’m sure that they will be able to do something that will be very good. We spoke about it last night at great length.”

And back he went again, on August 29: “I think we are helping the situation but there are tremendous problems between those two countries,” Trump said to reporters, “and I will do the best I can to mediate or do something.”

And yet again, on September 9: “I’m willing to help them,” Trump told reporters in response to a question. “I get along well with both countries very well. I’m willing to help if they want.”

Nope, India doesn’t. But there it was again, on September 23: “I am ready, willing and able,” Trump said to reporters before his meeting with Pakistan’s Prime minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of the UN general assembly debates in New York. “It’s a complex issue and it’s been going on for a long time. But if they are both willing then I’m ready to do it.”

And the offer stands, he said on September 25, also in New York. “I offered, whether it’s arbitration or mediation, or whatever it has to be, I’ll do whatever I can,” he said at a news conference at the end of his UNGA visit. “Because they’re at very serious odds right now, and hopefully that’ll get better.”

Calling Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Imran Khan as “good friends of mine”, the US president said, he told them “‘Fellas, work it out. Just work it out.’ Those are two nuclear countries. They’ve got to work it out.”