A Bridge Too Far

Reality does not go away when you start believing in it. This is true in the case of India that makes every effort to avert global attention from that part of Kashmir that it has grabbed, by relegating the exploding Kashmir issue as merely an internal matter which does not fall under the definition of an international crisis. In doing this, India brings into play its entire political and lobbying machinery to subvert every diplomatic move that may be aimed at internationalizing the issue at global and regional forums. Recently, India used its conventional diplomatic tactics, coupled with economic blackmailing maneuvers, to pressurize the European Union parliamentarians to defer a vote that would criticize the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and India’s continuing lockdown in Jammu & Kashmir. At times, an appropriate Indian tactic to hide the reality is to bury its head in the sand but such strategies do not always work, particularly where long-standing human crises are concerned. Kashmir is not merely a law and order triviality that can be repaired in a few days. It has festered for decades and is a cause of enmity between India and Pakistan, which translates in the backwardness of all of South Asia. When US President Donald Trump, on a recent visit to India, offered to mediate the Kashmir conflict, the Indian government again played its triviality card. But President Trump did say he was beginning to see signs of big progress with Pakistan and was hopeful that the tensions were reducing. He repeatedly offered mediation to settle the protracted Kashmir dispute but it seemed the Indians were not game for it.

If anything, the Indians have made things worse for the huge minority population of over 20 million Muslims in India. The Indian government moved on August 5, 2019 to revoke Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution, which awarded special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Within days, the Indian parliament also passed the Kashmir Reorganization Act which bifurcated Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. They have now also moved laws like the CAA and NRA and have made life really miserable for their entire Muslim population. However, Donald Trump, known for his straightforwardness and blunt diplomatic style, put a dampener on India’s euphoria when he let the ‘mediation ghost’ out of the bag, this time on Indian soil. Delivering a massive but unexpected blow to Indian hopes, he went to the extent of reminding the Indians of the ‘good relationship’ between the US and Pakistan. This can also be referred to as a monkey’s balancing act aimed at appeasing both adversaries through a single move. By acting in this way, the U.S. president basically gave both the opposing parties what they wanted to hear from the world’s superpower. Treading on a tightrope, Washington has rolled out state-of-the-art military helicopters and other equipment worth over $3 billion to the Indian armed forces but there are no such goodies for Pakistan. It is apparent that the U.S. is eyeing India to play a larger role in a region that is dominated by China. The US is not doing this as a matter of charity; it is well aware it cannot handle China alone and a regional ally is required to work as a watchdog. It even seems a troika comprising India, Japan and America is emerging to contain China.

At the same time, the U.S. successfully manages to keep Pakistan happy as it has had a very tough time negotiating with the Taliban and it cannot move ahead without Pakistan’s help to achieve the peace accord it is seeking in order to get out of the war that it has lost in Afghanistan after 18 years of trying to win. Trump’s mediation offer regarding Kashmir could be another way to appease Pakistan just for the time being. Assuming that the US is a trustworthy friend could be a big fallacy. It restricts Pakistan’s ability to look at the future more realistically. Pakistan and its people may be all keyed up for things to ease up in Kashmir following Trump’s India visit but considering the American President’s balancing act, this seems like a bridge too far.

Syed Jawaid Iqbal
President & Editor in Chief