President Donald Trump has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue at least three times, though New Delhi has categorically rejected the offer. Former media adviser to former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sanjay Baru suggested, it was best for President Trump not to raise the Kashmir issue again during his upcoming India visit on 24-25 February.
“It will be embarrassing for him if he raises the issue because he will then be criticised, the prime minister himself may not say anything but the entire country will attack him. He will go back to US not winning Indian support but losing Indian support", commented Baru on the possibility of Trump bringing up the issue again.
While India has maintained its stance on Kashmir – that it was an internal matter and should be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan, without any external mediation – the US and other nations appear to be ignoring this position.
Last week, US lawmakers wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to assess the situation in Kashmir and now the US think tank Congressional Research Service has released a report claiming that Trump’s offer in July 2019 during a visit by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan might have prompted India’s 5 August decision.
In July 2019, Trump also claimed that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked the US to play the role of mediator in the Kashmir dispute. But New Delhi claimed no such demand was made and to clear the confusion, a same-day social media post from the State Department clarified the Washington's position that “Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss” and the Trump Administration “stands ready to assist”.
Per Baru, however, domestic politics in the US are Trump's priority.
“He is coming to India to impress upon the Indian-American community in America, which has largely been divided between Republicans and Democrats. He wants to show that, look I have visited India in my first term. So he can go back and tell the Indian-American community that I am the friend of India", Baru added suggesting why Trump might not raise a matter that could hurt him politically.
Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqi stated on 13 February that President Trump should take up the mediation offer with Modi during his visit to India later this month.
"It is time that these offers take on a material shape", she said. "We are expecting that he [Trump] will take up the matter with Narendra Modi during his visit".
India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has reiterated India’s position at international meetings. During the Munich Security Conference last week, Jaishankar told a senior US senator that India would “settle” the Kashmir issue on its own.
Senator Lindsey Graham had earlier suggested during a panel discussion that the best way to sell democracy would be to settle the Kashmir issue in a democratic way.
To this, Jaishankar promptly responded, “Do not worry, Senator. Once democracy will settle it and you know which one.”
Kashmir has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan ever since both the countries gained independence from the British colonial rule in 1947. Both the countries had fought three wars, two over Kashmir and continue to control parts of the region as Jammu and Kashmir in India and Azad (Independent) Kashmir in Pakistan.
The relations between the two countries worsened when India abrogated Article 370 and stripped the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status. Pakistan has been trying to take the matter to international platforms, seeking mediation.