The controversy with regard to the statement made by President Donald Trump, that he was requested by Prime Minister Modi to mediate on Kashmir, between Pakistan and India, is a serious matter.
Firstly, the statement has been made by the President of the United States and is on public record. It is a statement made by arguably the most powerful chief executive of the world. Therefore, it has to be taken cognisance of. Now, this statement has been denied by the Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar.
He has said that no such request for mediation was made by Prime Minister Modi to Donald Trump.
The Opposition is, of course, not satisfied with the statement by the foreign minister. It wants Prime Minister Modi to come himself and give a clarification on what exactly transpired between him and Mr Donald Trump, and give this clarification on the floor of the house.
How Do We Resolve This Impasse?
First of all, it does appear that President Donald Trump has, in some way, put his foot in his mouth again, because to believe that Prime Minister Modi could request him for third party mediation between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, is such an appalling reversal of our definitive stand for all this time, for decades now.
Trump’s ‘Kashmir Mediation’ Statement Suits Pakistan’s Agenda
We have always maintained that any dispute with Pakistan must be resolved bilaterally. This has been stated in the Simla Pact and the Lahore Declaration. We have also had a resolution of Parliament in 1994, stating categorically that the whole of Kashmir, including Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, is an inviolable part of India.
So, if this is a non-negotiable fact, to ask for the President of the United States to mediate on Kashmir with Pakistan does not arise. However, the fact of the matter is that the statement that this ‘request’ was made, was made by Mr Donald Trump, and this kind of statement suits Pakistan. Pakistan would like third party mediation. Pakistan would like to internationalise the Kashmir issue.
Why Does Pakistan Want Third Party Mediation on Kashmir?
Pakistan would like to go beyond the established bilateral framework between India and Pakistan on disputes, and take Kashmir on to an international platform. That has been Pakistan’s attempt all along. Pakistan’s attempt will also be backed by most sections of the separatists in the Hurriyat.
Already, we have had a statement by at least one member of the Hurriyat welcoming third party mediation, and welcoming the possibility of the President of the United States mediating in this matter. So, this situation, currently, if President Donald Trump’s statement is taken at face value – it helps Pakistan, and would be welcomed by the Hurriyat.
It is in our interest to see that this controversy ends as soon as possible. Now, should the Opposition be satisfied with the categorical statement made by the foreign minister? At one level, yes. The foreign minister of India is a senior person; the designated person from the Ministry of External Affairs to provide a clarification in this regard.
But, equally it can be argued that since the statement attributed to Prime Minister Modi, seeking President Donald Trump’s mediation on Kashmir was made by President Donald Trump himself in public, in a press conference – the matter is far too sensitive for a clarification from anybody else except the Prime Minister. Now, the Prime Minister can come and make a statement clearing the air, especially because the Parliament is in session, and it is not unusual for Prime Ministers on special occasions to make a statement of this kind in the House.
If India Let’s Controversy Linger, Advantage Will Be Pakistan’s
Either way, it must be understood that as long as this controversy is allowed to linger, the advantage will go to Pakistan, and it is in our interest to bring closure as soon as possible to this situation, and if, for that reason, the Prime Minister considers it appropriate and does not make this a prestige issue, perhaps he could make a statement in the House and clarify that what President Donald Trump said was a complete misinterpretation of the discussions he had had.
And it appears that President Donald Trump was influenced more by his immediately preceding conversation with Prime Minister Imran Khan, than what he remembered of his conversation with Prime Minister Modi on the sidelines of the Osaka summit some weeks ago. The important thing is to bring closure to this matter as soon as possible.
(The writer, an author and former diplomat, is a member of the JD(U). He tweets at @PavanK_Varma. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)