Did Donald Trump Just Change His Spots on Kashmir?

(AP Foto/Patrick Semansky)

President Donald Trump is predictably unpredictable. After first offering to mediate on Kashmir, the President of the United States just did a double volte-face by first claiming that it was a bilateral dispute and now asking Premier Imran Khan to tone down his rhetoric on the abrogation of Article 370 and its aftermath.

The latest change of heart came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a phone conversation with Trump, who immediately followed it up with a call to Khan where he reaffirmed the need to reduce tensions and moderate rhetoric with India in order to avoid escalation of the situation, which he termed as a ‘tough’ one.

Earlier, Modi had highlighted the importance of creating an environment free from terror and violence and eschewing cross-border terror without exception. “In the context of the regional situation, extreme rhetoric and incitement to anti-India violence by certain leaders in the region was not conducive to peace.”

It was just about a month ago that Trump, showcased his trademark mix of ignorance and bluster offered to mediate on Kashmir which was countered aggressively by New Delhi, considered by policymakers in the United States to be a lynchpin of Washington’s newfound Indo-Pacific strategy.

That it was aimed at gaining Islamabad’s support for the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban in order to gain an honorable exit for the US from Afghanistan was obvious. Of course, even that cannot explain how Trump claimed that it was Modi who had sought his mediation on Kashmir, a fact that was immediately denied by New Delhi.

In fact, the President had used strong words against Pakistan while cutting economic aid to the country last year claiming that the country gave nothing but lies and deceit. However, after Khan reached the White House traveling without the bells and whistles of a state visit, Trump reversed his claim suggesting that Pakistan never lies, thus raising the possibility of restoring billions of dollars in security aid.

Having been out-maneuvered and isolated by India over getting Kashmir back to the table at the UN Security Council, Khan took to his social handle to spew venom at declining nuclear safety in India under a “fascist, racist Supremacist ideology and leadership.”

The leadership across the border claimed that Khan’s tirade came on the back of Defense Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement that India was free to change its no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons. Of course, there was some criticism of the statement and its timing but the manner in which Pakistan has reacted to it suggests that Singh didn’t score an own goal.

It also proves that for Trump, the mouth is where the money is! In his call with Modi, the US President reportedly discussed means to strengthen economic ties and enhance trade between the two countries. With the two of them scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the G7 summit in France later this month, this could well be a carrot that Trump requires to prove to his constituency that America isn’t in the throes of a recession.

It also proved beyond doubt that Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was right when he pointed out exasperatedly that nobody would be promoting Pakistan on Kashmir because India offers a market of over a billion people to investors.

And Pakistan just needs to come to terms with the fact that while one of the two parties in the region is begging for money, the other is offering a huge market with decent purchasing power. And diplomacy in the modern world operates on economics.