Kashmir mediation

THE Kashmir issue has been a source of acrimony between Pakistan and India for over seven decades, yet Indian obduracy and refusal to recognise it as the core issue and adopt out-of-the-box solutions has left this wound festering. While New Delhi keeps harping on about militancy in South Asia, it turns a blind eye to the appalling human rights situation in the held valley, which in many ways provides impetus to armed groups.

Moreover, its frequent ceasefire violations along the Line of Control have resulted in unacceptable losses of human life in Pakistan — both civilian and military — while adding to the risks of conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours. On Wednesday, a minor boy was killed in Indian shelling in Azad Kashmir, while a day before two persons lost their lives in the Neelum Valley. The Foreign Office has summoned the Indian deputy high commissioner and protested the unprovoked ceasefire violations by his country. Also, there are reports that India is moving an additional 10,000 troops into occupied Kashmir. The fact is that unless the Kashmir issue is addressed, peace in the subcontinent will be a distant dream. And it is also a fact that bilateral attempts to address the Kashmir question and restart dialogue have hit a brick wall, thanks mainly to Indian arrogance and intransigence. Therefore, perhaps the time is right to take up US President Donald Trump’s offer of mediation between Pakistan and India, specifically focusing on Kashmir. In comments that grabbed global headlines, Mr Trump had said — in a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan during the latter’s US visit last month — that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to help mediate the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan. While the comments raised a storm in India, with furious denialsemanating from the BJP-led government, a Trump staffer remarked that the American president “doesn’t make things up”. As bilateralism has failed to bring peace to the subcontinent, perhaps Imran Khan should launch a diplomatic push and approach Mr Trump to deliver on his offer to mediate. The US is the world’s sole superpower, and despite appearing tough and pretending to pursue an independent foreign policy course, India cannot afford to annoy America. That is why if the Trump administration gave a ‘push’ to the peace process, it would be very difficult for India to ignore such ‘friendly advice’ from Washington.

The US itself claims to be leading the global charge against militancy; if Washington succeeds in facilitating a negotiated settlement to the Kashmir dispute, it would take the wind out of the sails of terrorist groups in South Asia. Indeed, it is only Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris that can reach a lasting settlement.

But facilitation by foreign powers and multilateral bodies can certainly help all three parties achieve this goal — if India were to shed its arrogance and rigidity.