American President Donald Trump’s repeated pitch for his offer to mediate to resolve the Kashmir tangle despite India making it amply clear that New Delhi is not for third party intervention is complicating the peace process in the Indian sub-continent further. With his bloated ego, Trump sees himself as a fit candidate for a Nobel peace prize and qualifies it by saying that his predecessor Barack Obama was ill-suited for it. He considers that there is no one else but him who qualifies as much to mediate successfully between the two estranged neighbours. What he fails to realise is that he is in a sense adding fuel to the Pakistani effort to internationalise the Kashmir issue. The latest flashpoint when Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi did not attend the foreign ministers meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York until Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar left the meeting after his address does not bode well for durable peace and tranquillity in the region. Apparently, the Pakistanis believe that boycotting India would help their cause with US intervention then seeming like an expedient course for India. This is lopsided thinking on Islamabad’s part. Indians can hardly be goaded by the US or any other country to deliberate on Kashmir with Pakistan which is a terror-infested country known the world over for exporting terror and for destabilising peace.
Jaishankar’s forthright stand at the SAARC meet where he said “ours is not a story of not just missed opportunities but also of deliberate obstacles of which terrorism is one of them” should make the Indian stand absolutely clear. His statement that elimination of terrorism in all its forms is a precondition not only for fruitful cooperation but also for the very survival of the region itself should be a warning to a recalcitrant nation like Pakistan which is the epicentre of terrorism. There cannot be any peace parleys with Pakistan so long as it continues to fuel terror by infiltrating terror perpetrators who are trained and armed under the eyes of the Pakistani establishment. While Pakistan has a stake in destabilising the region, India has been making out a strong case for bilateralism to resolve all outstanding issues after Islamabad stops exporting terror into India. The US under Trump is seeking to establish its hegemony in the sub-continent by promoting the idea of a US mediation. Trump must understand that if Pakistan is treated as a pariah in the comity of nations it is not for nothing. In the eyes of the world it is a terror promoter.
The Pakistan Foreign Minister’s reported observation that he cannot sit down with the ‘butchers of Kashmir’ in reference to his boycott of the SAARC meeting when Jaishankar was addressing it shows the crassness of his country’s dealings with India, reinforcing the belief that Islamabad is unschooled in the niceties of international relations. The reason that Pakistan is unwilling to eschew encouraging terror is as much a result of its own government’s misplaced attitude as its virtual helplessness in the face of the Pakistan army’s shocking acquiescence in terror. The army, engaged in feathering its own nest, has grown accustomed to shooting from the government’s shoulder even as it wields power without responsibility.
It is indeed time for Pakistan to realise that instead of going for the elusive goal of acquiring control over Jammu and Kashmir when it has made a total mess of its governance of the Pak-occupied areas, it needs to concentrate on building up its economy which is in a shambles. Snapping links with India after the abrogation of Article 370 has been a retrograde move. The realisation has to dawn that Pakistan is seen worldwide as a failed state and is increasingly being identified as the epicentre of terror across the world. A forum like SAARC can be useful if there is a positive thrust towards economic cooperation and the obsession with fuelling terror in the neighbourhood is given up. The immediate priority has to be to revive the economy, come down hard on corruption and to behave responsibly in a constructive world environment.