The battle between India and Pakistan for control of Kashmir has gone on for decades now, leading to 4 wars and continuous cross-border fighting. In the midst of this fight, Kashmir has faced human rights abuses and terrorism. Both Pakistan and India have committed to peaceful negotiations and resolutions, however more recently, both countries have conducted military engagements.
The United States position on the conflict has shifted significantly in more recent years to less partial towards a particular state yet more cordial towards India. Specifically, the Trump administration has placed pressure on Pakistan to address terrorism by cutting military aid to Pakistan and by supporting United Nations resolutions which take strong stances against terrorism in the region.
Nevertheless, the Kashmir conflict is one that Pakistan and India have historically committed to solving bilaterally. The 1972 Simla Agreement established that Pakistan and India would seek to resolve the dispute either “through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them.” Furthermore, the 1999 Lahore Declaration signed by the then Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers establishes a promise by both governments to “intensify their composite and integrated dialogue process for an early and positive outcome of the agreed bilateral agenda.”
The issue of bilateralism specifically in regards to the Kashmir conflict has been brought to public attention in light of recent comments made by United States President Trump. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan recently embarked on a three-day trip to Washington, D.C. during which he met with President Donald Trump to discuss diplomatic relations. When the topic of Kashmir arose, Trump extended an offer to serve as a mediator between the two nations, claiming that Indian Prime Minister Modi personally requested U.S. assistance on the matter.
In response, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar took to twitter to clarify: “We have seen the US President’s remarks to the press that he is ready to mediate, if requested by India and Pakistan, on the Kashmir issue. No such request has been made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US President. It has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally.” Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar also denied Trump’s claims about Modi.
On the other hand, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan responded to President Trump’s comments by expressing that he is open to U.S. mediation, saying “There are over a billion and quarter people in the subcontinent; they are held hostage to the issue of Kashmir, and I feel that only the most powerful state, headed by President Trump, can bring the two countries together. From my point [of view], I can tell you we have tried our best.” He hopes that Trump will play a role in kick-starting a “dialogue” between India and Pakistan.
This recent controversy highlights the different geopolitical perspectives of Pakistan and India. Victor M. Gobarev outlines several key points, explaining Kashmir’s geopolitical importance. Firstly, Kashmir directly connects India to Central Asia, in proximity to Afghanistan, China, and Pakistan. Moreover, maintaining control over the region protects India from foreign invasion as the highlands present a convenient tactical leverage for military operations— Not to mention the plentiful, untapped natural resources and useful trade routes. For both nations, the stakes seem high. However, it seems so far as though it will take a breakthrough to bring both nations to the negotiation table.