Trump could be the clown who solves the 70-year Kashmir crisis. India and Pakistan should let him try

Few places so mesmerising carry the pain of Kashmir. The Himalayan region, contested for seven decades by India and Pakistan, has been a hideout for Islamabad-backed militants; witnessed the forced expulsion of a Hindu community as authorities did nothing; and seen a Muslim-majority area become home to 500,000 Indian troops reportedly responsible for widespread abuses. It is place burdened both by history and the desire for something better. Into this mix now steps Donald TrumpMeeting this week in the Oval Office with Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan, Trump offered to act as a mediator between the two neighbours. He claimed was asked to perform such as role by India’s Narendra Modi. “I was with prime minister Modi two weeks ago and he actually said, ‘Would you like to be a mediator, or an arbitrator?’ And I said, 'Where?' And he said ‘Kashmir’,” said Trump. “If I can help, I would love to be a mediator.” For those with any knowledge of India or Pakistan, it was a moment when jaws dropped. Why would India, which since 1972 has insisted the status of Kashmir can only be resolved by the two countries alone, have asked Trump to become involved? Within an hour, Delhi made clear it had not requested Washington’s assistance after all. Immediately, scorn was heaped on Trump. What did this joker know about Kashmir/cashmere, other than the fitted sweaters worn by the First Lady? Why would Trump risk antagonising a democratic Asian giant the US wants as a counterweight to China? And what in heaven’s name could Donald Trump actually do about Kashmir anyway? There’s another way to view this, and it starts with a record of failure. For 70 years, India and Pakistan have mutually obsessed over this region, with its mountains, apple orchards and walnut trees. Three times they have gone to war. At the same time, both have largely ignored the concerns of the people of Kashmir, of which there are five distinct areas, not one. On the Pakistan side, Islamabad has dismissed the requests of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, which want to become full provinces and secure more rights. On India’s part, in the late 1980s Delhi did nothing as countless thousands of Hindu Pandits were forced from the Kashmir Valley while an insurgency against the state by the Muslim community, furious over a fixed election, gathered force. convoy in the streets of Srinagar, Kashmir Since then, half a million troops and paramilitaries have set up razor wire and bunkers across towns such as Srinagar, frequently killing stone-throwing youths. The military is protected by a shameful piece of legislation, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which effectively gives them a free hand. Attendant to this, Delhi and Islamabad have used Kashmir as a strategic pawn — Pakistan in its appeals to the UN about alleged Indian human rights abuses; and India by choosing to ignore local demands for greater autonomy by writing them off as Pakistan-produced propaganda. It’s not a great record. Up to 75,000 soldiers, civilians and police officers have lost their lives, in attacks, explosions or cross-border bombing. All this in a land of houseboats and poetry, that until the mid-1980s was a tourist’s dream, as well as the location for numerous Bollywood movies. It is not as though large numbers in both countries do not want peace. In 2001, Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf and India’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee almost brokered a deal that would have seen demilitarisation in Kashmir, free movement, and the recognition of what is currently termed the Line of Control as the recognised border. We have seen @POTUS's remarks to the press that he is ready to mediate, if requested by India & Pakistan, on Kashmir issue. No such request has been made by PM @narendramodi to US President. It has been India's consistent position...1/2 — Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) July 22, 2019