By Arul Louis
New York, Feb 22 (IANS) US President Donald Trump will encourage India and Pakistan to hold bilateral dialogue, but for that Islamabad will have to crackdown on terrorism, according to a senior administration official.
“I think what you’ll hear from the President is very much encouraging a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan, encouraging the two countries to engage in bilateral dialogue with each other to resolve their differences,” the official said on Friday during a briefing to a a question on whether Trump will again offer to mediate on Kashmir.
The official specifically mentioning “bilateral dialogue” holds significance in the context of Trump’s previous attempts to embed himself in the Kashmir dispute, which have roiled India.
The official added a note of caution, saying: “A core foundation of any successful dialogue between the two is based on continued momentum in Pakistan’s efforts to crack down on terrorists and extremists on its territory.”
Trump, who will be making a two-day trip to India on February 24, will be skipping Pakistan during the South Asia journey.
The official said: “The President will urge both countries to seek to maintain peace and stability along the line of control and refrain from actions or statements that could increase tensions in the region.”
Trump has a record of bungling the Kashmir and India-Pakistan issues.
Last July, he made the outlandish claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to be a “mediator or arbitrator” when they had met the previous month in Osaka during the G-20 summit.
A shocked New Delhi denied that such a request was made given that India’s position is that under the Simla Agreement of 1971 between the two neighbours Kashmir and other disputes have to be resolved bilaterally without third-party involvement.
In September 2019, Trump offered to mediate between the two countries and reiterated it last month in Davos, despite India rejecting his attempts to get involved.
It is to be seen if during his India visit he will stick to the script as he did during the “Howdy Modi!” event in Houston last September or go into an off-the-cuff mode and create an embarrassment for his hosts.
The visit will take place days after the US has announced an agreement with the Taliban to reduce violence in Afghanistan that will pave the way for Washington to start to bring its troops back from there, winding down the 19-year war.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has wielded influence during the negotiations with the Taliban because Islamabad has sheltered and aided them.
The official said: “We certainly would look to India to support this peace process — an important country in the region, important to the overall stability of the region. So I think if the issue comes up, that is what would be the request from the President.”
(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)