Diplomacy

Trump Ready to 'Mediate' as US Tells India to Release Kashmir Political Detainees

The US president described Kashmir as a place where "you have millions of people that want to be ruled by others," while the State Department has called for improvement in the human rights situation inside the region.

New Delhi: Even as the State Department expressed concern about continuing detentions in Jammu and Kashmir but insisted that Washington had no plans of mediation, US President Donald Trump has reiterated his desire to “do the best I can to mediate or do something” over the “explosive situation” between India and Pakistan in Kashmir where “you have millions of people that want to be ruled by others”.

Trump’s latest comment suggests efforts by the Indian side – including phone calls from Prime Minister Modi – have done little to dissuade the US president from offering his services as a mediator.

Speaking to reporters at the White House On Tuesday, Trump said that he knew the leaders of both India and Pakistan as “good friends of mine” and “great people”. “…As you know Prime Minister Khan was here just recently… And I’m going to meet Prime Minister Modi, I will be with PM Modi over the weekend, in France,” stated Trump. Both Trump and Modi will be in France to attend the G-7 Summit.

“And I think we’re helping the situation, but there’s tremendous problems between the two countries. And I will do the best I can to mediate or do something,” he added.

Kashmir is a very complicated place. You have Hindus and you have the Muslims and I wouldn’t say they get along so great”. 

He also stated that there were “millions of people” who want to be “ruled by others, and maybe on both sides, and you have two countries that haven’t gotten along in a long time”.

Trump further said that Kashmir has been in a “tough situation” for “decades and decades”. “…shooting, and I don’t mean shooting like shooting a rifle, but major shooting of howitzers, of heavy arms, and this has been going on for a long, long period of time”.

The White House later put out an official transcript of his remarks:

Q:    The crisis between India and Pakistan —

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  It’s a big deal.

Q:    — and I know you’ve had some number of discussions — is that solvable?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, they’ve been having this — these talks for hundreds of years, even under different names.  But this is — but it’s Kashmir.  And Kashmir is 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.

And you have millions of people that want to be ruled by others, and maybe on both sides.  And you have two countries that haven’t gotten along well for a long time.  And, frankly, it’s a very explosive situation.

I spoke to Prime Minister Khan.  I spoke with, yesterday, also, Prime Minster Modi.  They’re both friends of mine.  They’re great people.  They’re great people.  And they love their countries.  And they’re in a very tough situation.

Kashmir is a very tough situation.  And, you know, we’re talking about — this has been going on for decades and decades.  Shooting.  I don’t mean shooting like shooting a rifle, I mean like major shooting of howitzers, of — you know, of heavy arms.  And it’s been going on for a long period of time.

But I get along really well with both of them.  As you know, Prime Minister Khan was here just recently.  And I was with — I’m going to be with Prime Minister Modi.  I’ll be with him over the weekend in France.

So, you know, I think we’re helping the situation.  But there’s tremendous problems between those two countries, as you know.  And I will do the best I can to mediate or do something.  Great relationship with both of them, but they are not exactly friends at this moment.  Complicated situation.  A lot has to do with religion.  Religion is a complicated subject.

Kashmir an ‘internal matter, but has implications outside’

The US called for improvement in the human rights situation inside Kashmir, with the quick release of political detainees and restoration of basic freedoms.

On Tuesday in Washington, the US State Department held a special briefing by a senior official on the tense situation in South Asia over the latest crisis in Kashmir.

The Hindu quoted the official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying that while the revocation of Kashmir’s status may be an internal issue – as India insisted – it had external ramifications.  

“We recognise that it’s an internal matter, but it obviously has implications outside of India’s borders. And so we have long called for direct conversations between India and Pakistan to resolve what have been the decades of tensions generated by that issue,” said the senior US diplomat, as reported by The Hindu.

She noted that the US continued “to be very concerned by reports of detentions, and continued restrictions on the residents of the region”.

Also read: If It Sounds Like Mediation, It Is Mediation

“We urge respect for individual rights, compliance with legal procedures and inclusive dialogue,” said the State Department official, adding that the US was aware of India’s concerns but continued to push for the restoration of normalcy in the region. 

Earlier, on Monday, Trump had first called Modi and then immediately spoken to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan about reducing tensions in South Asia. 

US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters

To a question on whether these calls constituted mediation, the US diplomat asserted that the president had offered to “mediate” if asked by both parties. “He’s not been asked by both parties to mediate,” she added.

While speaking to reporters in July during Khan’s White House visit, Trump had claimed that Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue. This was denied by the Indian government, whic stated that its traditional opposition to any third-party intervention had not changed.

During Monday’s phone call, Modi had complained about Khan’s “extreme rhetoric”, as per the Indian foreign ministry press note. The White House stated that Trump told Khan to dial back on rhetoric. 

While shying away from terming Trump’s actions as direct mediation, the senior State Department official said that his interest in South Asian stability isn’t new. She pointed out that one of the first strategies unveiled by the Trump administration was its “South Asian strategy”.