The Prime Minister arrived in this town on France’s southwestern tip Sunday evening India time from Bahrain on a personal invitation from French President Emmanuel Macron. He is scheduled to address sessions on environment, climate, oceans and digital transformation at the Summit. Soon after landing in Biarritz, the Prime Minister had his first bilateral meeting with Boris Johnson, the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Trump would want to know from Modi how India planned to reduce regional tensions and uphold the respect for human rights in Kashmir as part of its role as the world’s largest democracy, American officials have said. “We do expect the issue of India-Pakistan relations to come up. India’s decision to rescind Article 370 in Kashmir is an internal decision, but certainly with regional implications. And President Trump will likely want to hear how Prime Minister Modi intends to calm regional tensions in light of this significant move,” a US official said in a background briefing in Washington DC, details of which were released on Saturday.
“The President is likely to stress the need for dialogue among all sides of the conflict and his hope that India will lift the communications and movement restrictions in Kashmir and exercise utmost restraint in dealing with potential protests,” the official said.
“And certainly, President Trump is also calling on Pakistan to prevent the infiltration of militants across the Line of Control that divides Kashmir and to crack down on groups on its territory that have attacked India in the past.”
The US has nuanced its position on Jammu and Kashmir in recent days. After initially saying that President Trump was “ready to mediate” between India and Pakistan, they have now said that the President is “ready to assist”.
Ten days ago, on August 16, just hours before the United Nations Security Council met in New York, the Indian side sensed that the US side was uncertain in its support on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had a quick meeting with the visiting US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan in New Delhi that day, and conveyed to him that India would be watching who stood where in the closed-door consultations.
“We could sense the uncertainty showed by the American side. So we thought, as a strategic partner, we must make it clear where we expected our friends to stand,” a top source told The Indian Express. Hours later, when the UNSC met and the Chinese side pressed the other members to express concern at the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the US and France led the efforts to veto any such proposal by Beijing’s envoy.
Since then, the US has come out more unequivocally in support, calling the issue of Jammu and Kashmir an “internal matter” of India — something that New Delhi has always insisted on.
This was spelt out most effectively and clearly by US Defence Secretary Mark T Esper to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on August 20, when he “appreciated India’s position that the recent developments in Jammu and Kashmir are an internal matter of India”, according to a statement by the Defence Ministry. This was the first time that the US said that the developments in J&K were an “internal matter” of India. Russia was the first UNSC permanent member to underline that the changes had been carried out “within the framework of the Constitution of the Republic of India”.
The new US approach was very different from its position of August 6, when it said that it “take(s) note” that the Indian government had described its actions of the previous day as a strictly internal matter. The US had said that it was concerned about reports of detentions, and urged respect for individual rights and discussions with those in affected communities.
US more in line with India now
India has politely but firmly declined President Donald Trump’s offers to “mediate” on Jammu and Kashmir. It has underlined to the United States that “any discussion on Kashmir, if at all warranted, will only be with Pakistan and only bilaterally”. After an initial uncertain reaction to the Indian government’s August 5 move on Jammu and Kashmir, the US has been more unequivocal in its support, calling the issue an “internal matter” of India — something that New Delhi has always underlined.
On August 8, the State Department spokesperson had said that the US was “closely following” the broader implications of these developments, including the potential for increased instability in the region. “We continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern,” the spokesperson had said, adding that “the US calls for calm and restraint by all parties”.
On August 19, three days after the UNSC informal consultations, Trump spoke with Modi and conveyed the importance of reducing tensions between India and Pakistan and maintaining peace in the region.
On August 22, Trump suggested — for the third time in the space of a month — that he would do his best to “mediate” on the Kashmir issue. India has made it clear at least twice in the past that it brooks no interference or mediation on the issue, most recently when Jaishankar conveyed this position to the US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo this month.
On August 2, hours after Trump said he would “certainly intervene” on the Kashmir issue if New Delhi and Islamabad wanted him to, India had rejected the suggestion. Significantly, Trump did not reiterate a previous claim that Modi had asked him to intervene, in what was perceived as back-pedalling from his claim last month.
Jaishankar, after meeting Pompeo in Bangkok on the sidelines of the 9th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers meeting, said on Friday that “any discussion on Kashmir, if at all warranted, will only be with Pakistan and only bilaterally”.
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