At the time of partition in 1947, Maharajah Hari Singh of Kashmir found himself with a critical decision to make. His choices were accession to India or Pakistan based on geographical contiguity, religious affiliation of the population or defiance of the Viceroy. Adhering to the advice of then Governor-General of India, Lord Mountbatten, the Prince signed an irrevocable instrument of accession to Dominion of India.
Since then, India and Pakistan have fought three wars for the disputed territory of Kashmir which borders both nations. The countries are separated by one of the most heavily militarized borders in the world, known as the line of control (LoC).
Kashmir is claimed by India and Pakistan in full and ruled in part by both. Of the 4 million population, 95% are Muslim, and 4% are Hindus. Many people in the territory do not want it to be governed by India, preferring either independence or union with Pakistan instead.
India has repeatedly opposed any third-party mediation on the Kashmir issue. The 1972 Shimla Agreement and the 1999 Lahore declaration addresses the commitment of India and Pakistan to resolve issues between the two.
The Indian government refuted President Trump's claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had requested US mediation on the Kashmir issue during the sidelines of G20 Summit in Osaka.
At the press meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Trump stated "I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago [at the G20], and we talked about this subject, and he actually said, 'Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?' I said, 'Where?' He said, 'Kashmir.'…I think they'd like to see it resolved, and you'd like to see it resolved, and if I can help, I'd love to be a mediator…"
Pakistan has continuously urged for the implementation of UN resolutions, calling for a ballot for the region to decide its future. But India has maintained that Kashmir is a bilateral dispute. Imran Khan welcomed Trump's offer to mediate and resolve the issue stating that bilaterally there will never be a resolution on the dispute. Since 2015, the leaders of both countries have not met for talks.
India has maintained that dialogues and terror cannot go together. Supporting this, the Democratic chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel said that Pakistan must "dismantle the terrorist infrastructure" for any meaningful dialogue with India.
India's spokesperson for Ministry of External Affairs tweeted: "No such request has been made by PM to US President. It has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally. Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross border terrorism…" Alice Wells, Assistant Secretary of State tweeted that 'While Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss, the Trump administration welcomes Pakistan and India sitting down and the United States stands ready to assist."
The Chief of J & K'S People Democratic Party, Mehbooba Mufti stated that Trump's disclosure about India seeking third-party intervention in the Kashmir conflict marks a "huge policy shift". She noted that "Even though the USA doesn't hold a great record in resolving protracted conflicts, hope both countries seize this opportunity to forge peace through dialogue,". In the meantime, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said if the statements of President Trump were true, PM Modi has betrayed India's interests and 1972 Shimla Agreement.
- The issue of whether mediator bias will affect the outcome of mediation has to be considered. There have been precedents when India and Pakistan allowed a third party to help resolve their issues. Mediation was attempted through the UN Commission on India and Pakistan, followed by the 1965 Tashkent Declaration brokered by the Soviet Union.
- International mediation is not likely to consider Kashmir's internal struggle. Also, the mediation process will require to examine global and domestic engagements, each of which responds to different conflict management efforts.
- Looking at history, US mediation between Egypt and Israel did not include Palestinians. They were deprived of the right to vote, and that was the original motive for the conflict. We feel that diplomacy alone cannot solve the issues. There should be careful attention to history and facts.
- Any concessions given to Kashmir will become a criterion for demands in other states.
- It is also likely that such mediation could damage the Indo – US ties.