US’s Foreign Policy and Kashmir By Umair Jamal

After India’s illegal annexation of Jammu and Kashmir, Washington is clearly in a tough spot. Seemingly, the U.S. neither wants to openly threaten India over the issue nor does it want to derail the progress concerning the Afghan peace process where Pakistan’s role has become central.
Pakistan, on its part, is going to make sure that Washington sees the Kashmir situation as an irritant to the ongoing Afghan peace process which has is taken away Pakistan’s focus to the Eastern border. Arguably, there is not any love lost for PM Modi’s government in Washington as the former policy of sidelining minorities and promoting Hindutva in the country have created a wedge between the two countries. Moreover, India has scrapped Article 370/35A at a time when the U.S. is trying to negotiate its troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
The timing of the decision is surely going to create a lot of distress in Washington DC as the US doesn’t want India or Pakistan to be sidetracked from Washington’s principal partnership goals. In Pakistan’s case, Washington cannot afford to see another derail of the Afghan peace process. However, given the developing situation across the Line of Control (LoC) and illegal annexation of the Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan’s entire focus is going to be on the Eastern border. This is exactly the situation which the U.S. didn’t want to happen. From Pakistan’s perspective, it should be clear to Washington that the deployment of 10000 troops and a working plan to send 25000 more troops are not meant to contain militants but to scale hostility along the LoC.
President Trump FP team is not going to appreciate Modi’s decision as it comes days after the former offer to mediate between India and Pakistan. On the one hand, it undermines the US’s legitimacy and political clout in the region. A report published by an Indian news publication disclosed that the US was informed by the Modi administration about New Delhi’s plan to scrap article 370/35A of the constitution. While the U.S. has neither confirmed nor denied the report, the timing of the decision couldn’t have been worse for D.C.
What remains clear is that President Trump offer to mediate in the Kashmir issue has not resulted in India deciding the issue of Kashmir. However, the statement may have forced India to move its timeline for the decision. Cleary, India didn’t like President Trump’s statement that the former had asked for the latter’s mediation in the Kashmir conflict. The statement, which created a huge commotion in India, gave BJP enough pull to implement the controversial plan which has remained a part of BJP’s election manifesto for some time.
From here onward, Pakistan and the US’s policy may see frictions over the issue as Pakistan is not only going to push ahead with an agenda that ensures New Delhi exclusion from Afghanistan but will also ask for Washington’s intervention in Kashmir
Pakistan has plenty of options at its disposal when it comes to challenging India’s illegal annexation of J&K. Clearly, India’s move has taken away any credible chance of negotiations with New Delhi over the issue. For months, Pakistan has maintained that resolution of the Kashmir conflict can only come through negotiations. However, India’s unilateral decision to annex Jammu and Kashmir illegally means that New Delhi is not interested in dialogue or diplomacy. Rather, the BJP led government is focused on instability in the region.
In 2007-08, Pakistan and India came very close to signing an agreement which could have resolved the issue of Kashmir. However, today’s India is much different that than India of 2007-08: hyper-nationalism and the brewing political environment of communal exclusivity have made it virtually impossible for any government to make a deal with Pakistan over the issue of Kashmir. After the abolition of Article 370 and 35A, any bilateral or trilateral discussion over the subject has become null and void as India is not likely to take up the issue in the future.
In the coming days and weeks, Pakistan is going to make sure that the international community endorses the former’s stance over the issue of Kashmir and demonizes India’s recent actions. Particularly, Pakistan would like to enlist the support of Washington as the latter’s support can still create adequate troubles for New Delhi’s diplomacy.
Islamabad is likely to ensure that India doesn’t have a space in the post-US Afghanistan which is one of the reasons that New Delhi has moved a factious plan to snatch away Kashmiri right of self-determination. From here onward, Pakistan and the US’s policy may see frictions over the issue as Pakistan is not only going to push ahead with an agenda that ensures New Delhi exclusion from Afghanistan but will also ask for Washington’s intervention in Kashmir. In this regard, Pakistan should be expected to follow aggressive regional security and foreign policy to neutralize India’s influence in areas which can undermine Pakistan’s interests. In the coming days and weeks, Washington may have to deal with another India-Pakistan crisis or some serious security situation in either Kashmir or Afghanistan – both situations are a worrying point for DC.
The writer is a freelance journalist

August 8, 2019

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