US-India Global Review

15 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW JANUARY-MARCH 2018 Arul Louis U.S. Seeks Mediator Role In India-Pakistani Dispute H aving raised India's role to that of an anchor of Pax Democratiam – the comity of democratic nations – United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has hinted after his October visit to India and Pakistan that Washington is look- ing for a mediating role, one that could help New Delhi be rid of the weight the continuing conflict with Islamabad imposes on reaching its full potential. Despite their best intentions, this is an unrealistic optimism also expressed earlier by President Donald Trump him- self and his United Nations Permanent Representative Nikki Haley - a road paved with failures by three of Trump's four immedi- ate predecessors. On his way back, Tillerson said in Geneva on October 26 that while meeting Pakistani leaders in Islamabad, “I made the observa- tion to them, 'You have two very troubled borders. You have one in Afghanistan, you have one with India,' and that we’re willing to help on both of those borders, and we’re not just here to talk about the situation on the Afghan bor- der. We’re also here to talk about how can we lower the tensions on the border with India.” He was not asked – and he did not say – if he had made a similar offer to Indian leaders. During his campaign for the presidency, Trump had said, “I would love to be the mediator or arbitrator.” But he carefully pref- aced it with the caveat, “If they wanted me to.” In April, Haley, who has cabinet rank, said about India-Pakistan tensions, “I would expect that the administration is going to be in talks and try and find its place to be a part of that because it's con- cerned about the situation.” And heightening expectations, she added, “And also wouldn’t be sur- prised if the president participates as well.” But there are three important blocks to the US, the United Nations or anyone else mediating between the two neighbours. First and the most is India's intractable opposition to any medi- ation, which it views as unwel- come interference in the region. New Delhi brandishes the 1972 Simla Agreement between Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi of India and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan to strenuously oppose any third party involvement in disputes with Islamabad. In that pact signed after the Bangladesh War, the two neighbours agreed to settle dis- putes only by themselves, although Pakistan has since sought to involve others. Then there is the Pakistani mili- tary and the weight of history. Kashmir, which India considers an integral and immutable part of India, is the core issue for which there can be no solution without the agreement of Pakistani mili- tary establishment, which hold the ultimate power, to any compromis- es. The generals are bolstered by sentiments drenched by 70 years of history. Keeping the Kashmir issue boil- ing – despite failing to get any active diplomatic support for its cause from anywhere in years – is the very source of the military- Islamic complex's power. Dragging the US or others is but the Islamabad establishment strategy to try to weaken India's resolve – a ploy New Delhi understands. And there is China, which would like to keep the tensions at a slow burn precisely to limit India's role in an American part- nership, especially in the Indo- Pacific region – from India to Japan and onwards – that