US President Donald Trump Monday offered to help resolve the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. He said, “If I can help, I would love to be a mediator.” He also suggested that PM Narendra Modi had asked for the US’ help. The Ministry of External Affairs released a statement saying no such help was sought and that the Kashmir issue will be dealt bilaterally with Pakistan.
ThePrint asks: Can India & Pakistan resolve Kashmir bilaterally or is a big-power mediator the only hope?
Trump can help – by ensuring Pakistan stops supporting terrorist outfits and interfering in Kashmir
Distinguished Fellow, National Security, VIF
India had taken Pakistan’s aggression in Kashmir to the United Nations for a resolution in 1947. The UK and the US, as permanent members of the Security Council, did not make any meaningful effort to implement the UN resolution to end Pakistan’s aggression and hold a plebiscite offered by India. Instead, they built a Cold War alliance in which Pakistan became mired and the military emerged as the dominant force. That alliance has dwindled but its effects linger as Washington relies on Pakistan to tame the Taliban and the Haqqani group of extremists.
China, the other power that has offered to mediate at different times, itself occupies a part of Kashmir and is in close alliance relationship with Islamabad. Neither the US or China nor the UN have the credentials for mediation.
Mediation requires attention to important questions pertaining to the kind of subcontinent we want, religious coexistence and tolerance, economic ties, and peaceful inter-state relations. These are large questions that can only be answered by India and Pakistan working together and discarding enemy images. It also necessitates a fundamental change in Pakistan’s hostile approach towards India and giving up its claims on Kashmir that can never be realised. India, of course, has not asked for any mediation.
President Donald Trump does not seem to comprehend the deep complexities that shape India-Pakistan relations. But he can help by ensuring Pakistan stops all support to terrorist outfits, and its interference in Kashmir. That will create the basis for talks and, perhaps, better relations between India and Pakistan, following which disputes can be peacefully resolved.
Only an impartial country can mediate and break Kashmir deadlock
Military historian specialising on Kashmir
If the governments of India and Pakistan seriously wanted to resolve the Kashmir issue bilaterally, they could have done so by holding meaningful dialogue. However, to date, the domestic narrative in both countries has always prevented any talks from coming to fruition. Moreover, the dialogue must include representation from the local population to be sustainable.
So, the answer to the question whether ‘a big-power mediator’ is the only hope is that mediation could help to break the deadlock – as Britain found with Northern Ireland. However, such mediation would have to be totally impartial. I don’t think the mediator necessarily has to be a ‘big power’ – any country which is respected by both India and Pakistan, and by the people of Kashmir, could be acceptable. It is, however, crucial that the mediating country is impartial, otherwise either side could cry foul.
But for any mediation to take place, both countries would have to accept the principles of mediation, which, ever since the Simla Agreement was signed in 1972, the government of India has staunchly refused (notwithstanding US President Donald Trump’s recent claim that PM Narendra Modi had invited him to mediate, which the Modi government has denied).
Mediation in volatile disputes is not only desirable, but necessary
Senior Fellow, CPR and former VC, Islamic University, Kashmir
The question points to several failures in the Indian government’s policy trajectory on Jammu and Kashmir. One, it illustrates that India and Pakistan have returned to being hyphenated states, highlighting the dysfunctionality of South Asia’s political economy. Two, the Pulwama-Balakot scare alarmed the international community about the danger in not resolving the Kashmir conundrum. Three, it is hard to believe that POTUS made his Kashmir comment without being briefed about “Cashmere” as being more than fine wool.
That said, the Kashmir dispute is not unacquainted with denial and deceit or ignorance and statist self-interest undermining the wishes of its peoples. So, intervention by Trump as a person is not an unqualifiedly promising idea.
However, institutional mediation is much needed because the resolution of the dispute over J&K cannot be left to New Delhi and Islamabad who have failed for over 70 years.
Besides, mediation in volatile disputes is not only desirable, but necessary, as we struggle to find a workable ‘world order’ after the collapse of the one we had three decades ago. Complex conundrums like Kashmir, Palestine, Afghanistan and Tibet are symptoms of a world order based on outmoded systems.
Resolving them would confirm the hopeful presence of stateswomen, men and viable systems among us.
Starting trilateral talks between Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris could be a promising avenue
Former foreign secretary of Pakistan
The Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India has festered for over 70 years. In recent decades, it has acquired a severity with multiple lethal dimensions. India’s stubborn refusal to address the grievances of Kashmiris meaningfully, and its adamant refusal to resume composite talks with Pakistan betray a mindset of stark indifference to ground and regional realities.
Kashmiri struggle for the realisation of their fundamental rights cannot be crushed by force. If the situation is allowed to drift, it can have incalculable consequences. India needs to rethink its policies towards Kashmir. It also needs to realise the futility of its declared policy of isolating Pakistan. In fact, this sham can no longer be justified by New Delhi even to its own people.
Ongoing global and regional developments will compel India to change track or suffer reversals at home and abroad. Recent US offer made by President Donald Trump should serve as an eye-opener for India. Pakistan seeks a peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute. Be it through the US or United Nations or international mediation or bilateral means. Starting a process of trilateral talks between Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris could be a promising avenue for de-escalating tensions and moving towards a win-win situation.
If India & Pakistan have no collective will to resolve Kashmir issue, then big-power mediators can’t do much
Noor Ahmed Baba
Professor, Central University of Kashmir
The Kashmir problem goes back decades and has still not been resolved because perceptions on both sides of the border regarding the conflict are every different.
More than mediation, a degree of facilitation by a friendly power would be beneficial in resolving the problem. However, it is most important to understand that the conflict can only be resolved if there is a collective will to address the issue. If both India and Pakistan want to end the conflict, then the Kashmir issue can be resolved without a big-power mediator. If there is no collective will, then even a mediator will not be able to resolve it.
India and Pakistan need to realise that they live in a time where both countries are interdependent and they cannot prosper in isolation. They are dependent on each other for air space, as was seen when Pakistan shut down its airspace after the Balakot strike, and even for roadways and railways.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee had the will to resolve the Kashmir issue, unfortunately, he did not have enough time. Both countries need to identify Kashmir not as a piece of land, but as a region whose people are suffering. With the correct leadership and the realisation to undo the suffering of the public, the issue of Kashmir can be resolved.
By Revathi Krishnan and Fatima Khan