Kashmir situation explosive and complicated, Trump says, offering to mediate again

WASHINGTON: Describing the situation in Kashmir as “explosive” and “complicated” on account of religious differences in the region, US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he “will do the best I can to mediate or do something” to defuse the crisis between Pakistan and India.

“Kashmir’s a very complicated place. You have the Hindus, and you have the Muslims, and I wouldn’t say they get along so great. And that’s what you have right now,” Trump told reporters in the White House, offering a pared down explanation of a crisis he himself described as complicated.

The US President said he would be meeting India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the weekend at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France and suggested the issue may feature in their discussions.

“We are helping the situation. There are tremendous problems between those two countries and I will do the best I can to mediate or do something. It is a complicated situation. A lot has to do with religion. Religion is a complicated subject,” Trump said.

The US President’s remarks followed telephonic conversations he had, first with Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan, then with Prime Minister Modi, and back again with Khan, over the past four days.

While Khan has repeatedly sought his intervention and mediation in the crisis and attempted to leverage Washington’s need for Pakistan for the US exit from Afghanistan, Modi conveyed to him that Khan’s intemperate tweets on Sunday had befouled the atmosphere and bilateral talks between India and Pakistan would be considered only if he dialed down the rhetoric and rolled up and prosecuted the terror networks in Pakistan that launched repeated attacks on India.

Subsequent to that conversation, Trump phoned Khan a second time to ask him to moderate his rhetoric and avoid escalating conflict with India over the Kashmir issue, according to the White House. The US President also appears to have accepted India’s stand that effecting constitutional, legislative, and administrative changes in Jammu and Kashmir was a purely internal domestic decision and Pakistan has no locus standi in the matter.

At a separate briefing, a senior US administration official told reporters that while the US recognized that what India had done is an internal matter, “it obviously has repercussions outside of India’s borders.” The Trump administration, while staying with the bilateral course that New Delhi insists on, would urge India to address the human rights situation, including moving quickly to release detainees to restore basic freedoms, and to implement what the Prime Minister laid out in his own address of a return to political normalcy.

The United States, most major world powers barring China, and a range of smaller countries, including Gulf and Islamic countries, have broadly accepted New Delhi’s stand that revocation of Article 370 and related changes in Jammu and Kashmir are India’s internal matter and backed New Delhi’s position that any talks between India and Pakistan has to be in a bilateral sphere as envisaged in agreements between the two countries. Although US official hew to this line, Trump frequently strays into mediation territory, leaving the US officialdom to finesse his offer or pick up the pieces.

Trump appeared to have gotten some sort of briefing in recent days on the Kashmir issue centering on religion. “Well they have been having these talks for hundreds of years. You have millions of people who want to be ruled by others …maybe on both sides…and you have two countries that haven’t gotten along well for a long time,” he said with typical vagueness as he talked about the issue in response to a question during a media photo-op with visiting President of Romania Klaus Iohannis

“Frankly, it is a very explosive situation….I spoke to Prime Minister Khan and Prime Minister Modi…they are friends of mine and they are both great people…they love their countries. Kashmir is a very tough situation. This has been going on for decades….the shooting….I don’t mean rifles.. major shooting of howitzers and heavy weapons,” he rambled on.

Source: Times of India

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