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Trump’s Kashmir Blunder

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India at the White House on June 26 for an official visit to Washington, D.C. (Ministry of External Affairs/Embassy of India/Flickr)

Trump met with Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, and during the meeting he proposed mediating the dispute over Kashmir:

President Trump offered to help mediate the long-running Kashmir conflict between Pakistan and India as he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, while also touting U.S. military capabilities in Afghanistan.

After Mr. Khan said he would welcome Mr. Trump’s help mediating the conflict, the president said India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to do the same and said he would gladly play a role.

“If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Mr. Trump said on Monday.

India has long maintained that Kashmir was purely a bilateral issue with Pakistan, and because of that they have rejected mediation by other governments for decades. It would have been a shocking reversal of longstanding Indian policy to invite anyone, much less Trump, to act as a mediator. Pakistan would naturally welcome an outside mediator, and by making the offer the president will be seen as favoring them at India’s expense. So Trump’s claim that the Indian prime minister had asked him to mediate was obviously untrue. The Indian government wasted no time clarifying that Modi had never made such a request:

The foreign ministry has denied US President Donald Trump’s claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked him to “mediate” on Kashmir.

U.S.-India relations under Trump have not been all that good, and this episode seems likely to strain them further. India has already come under pressure from the U.S. to cut back its oil purchases from both Iran and Venezuela, and Trump has been threatening them with more tariffs. After putting up with all of this, India has very little to show for its indulgence. I doubt Modi appreciates it when Trump attributes statements to him that he never made.

Trump’s meeting with Khan was reportedly arranged through the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman:

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s invitation to visit the US and meet President Donald Trump was arranged through direct assistance from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, two senior officials said on Saturday.

Khan will arrive in Washington on Saturday ahead of a meeting with Trump that Pakistan hopes will help to restore trust and attract much-needed foreign investment.

When asked if Crown Prince Salman had played an “instrumental role” in paving the way for the Khan-Trump meeting, a senior Pakistani foreign office official said “absolutely.”

The report also mentioned Kushner’s role in coordinating with Mohammed bin Salman on this:

A senior member of Khan’s Cabinet also confirmed the role of the crown prince in setting up the meeting, saying that he had used his personal friendship with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, to help arrange the meeting.

This Saudi-Kushner connection may help explain why Trump is much more favorably disposed towards Pakistan all of a sudden. It is bad enough that Trump has been mishandling the relationship with India, but it is even worse if he is letting Saudi influence distort this part of U.S. foreign policy as well.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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