Trump, Modi see eye-to-eye on terror, China; beginning of third-party mediation on Kashmir?

Trump seems to have put his foot into India-Pakistan “bilateral” relations. It may just be the beginning of third-party mediation in the Kashmir dispute

Irshad Salim — While Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) on Tuesday slammed the designation of supporters of the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists, terming it ‘completely unjustified’, its Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said the US State Department’s statement following Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Washington gave the impression as if the American government did not care about the lives of innocent Kashmiris.

The development surfaced hours ahead of a meeting between Modi and Trump — their first. Both see eye-to-eye on region’s two main concerns: terrorism and China. It was like an Eid gift from the US president to the Indian prime minister. The Muslims of the sub-continent were celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr on the night of June 26.

Many Pakistanis view the declaration against Syed Salahuddin (the supreme commander of Hizbul Mujahideen) as a pressure tactic to force not only Hizbul Mujahedin but also Pakistan to start a meaningful dialogue with Delhi. “Nobody can deny the fact that the ultimate solution of Kashmir dispute lies in dialogue, but right now it doesn’t seem as if the movers and shakers on both sides of the border are interested,” commented The Indian Express.

Nisar’s concerns were carried by local media a few hours after the Trump administration in a surprise announcement declared Salahuddin, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) and imposed sanctions on him. Salahuddin is said to be a well-educated Kashmiri from Srinagar who was forced to pick up the gun after the rigged election in Indian-held Kashmir in 1987.

FO Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria in a statement without naming Salahuddin or the US, reiterated Pakistan’s longstanding commitment to countering terrorism “in all its forms and manifestations”, and said the Kashmiri struggle “remains legitimate”.

“The designation of individuals supporting the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists is completely unjustified,” Zakaria added.

The decision drew criticism and condemnation from other side of the Line of Control (LoC), with Kashmiris chiding Trump administration for “equating their legitimate struggle for internationally acknowledged right to self-determination with terrorism.”

The interior minister said the US administration was siding with India, which was not only involved in grave human rights violations in Indian occupied-Kashmir (IOK) but had also been portraying the legitimate freedom movement there as terrorism from the very beginning.

“It seems as if international human rights laws are not applicable in Kashmir and the killing of innocents there means nothing to the US,” he added.

“Ignoring the worst form of state terrorism [in IOK] does not only mock justice and international norms, but also exposes the dual standards of those upholding human and democratic rights.”

In this situation, Nisar maintained, it was the need of hour to exhibit national unity and resilience and assure our Kashmiri brethren that Pakistan and its people would not stop extending political, diplomatic and moral support to them.

Nisar said, “We will continue to advocate Kashmiris’ cause at every platform and stir up the conscience of the international community,” dovetailing Pakistani military establishment’s oft-repeated view that Kashmir is Pakistan’s jugular vein and the unfinished agenda of 1947 partition.

Nisar, whose ministry has a tight working and cooperative relationship with the military via Raddul-Fassad (Operation against discord) ongoing operation, reiterated that Pakistan would continue to struggle until Kashmiris were given their rights as per the requirements of justice and the resolutions of the United Nations. “Kashmiris are destined for their right to self-determination and freedom from Indian oppression and no power on earth can deprive them of that,” he added.

And the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while highlighting “the gross and systematic violations of human rights of the Kashmiri people” in India-held Kashmir (IHK), said Indian security forces had intensified their “brutal policies of repression” in the region, including the use of pellet guns, extrajudicial killings, rape, use of human shields, arbitrary arrests, undocumented disappearances and other forms of violence and curbs to freedom.

The FO Spokesperson asserted that Pakistan would continue to extend “political, diplomatic and moral support for the just struggle of the Kashmiri people for the realization of the right to self-determination and the peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions.”

Meanwhile, the specter of self-determination albeit freedom or independence in Indian-administered Kashmir has drastically increased, as angry Kashmiri youth and stone-pelters dot the changing landscape. Ultimately, all the stake-holders will have to sit down and talk about a possible solution one day, an Indian local daily wrote.

“Certainly, Trump seems to have put his foot into India-Pakistan “bilateral” relations. It may just be the beginning of third-party mediation in the Kashmir dispute,” it added. The Trump administration in January offered mediation on. It was then rejected by Modi government. Pakistan welcomed it.

Modi-Trump Meet: $2 Billion Drone Deal a Done Deal

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has cleared the sale of 22 naval variant of Predator drones to India for $2 billion, as President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged on Monday to deepen their defense and security cooperation. “Reflecting the partnership, the US has offered for India’s consideration the sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems,” the joint statement said.

These surveillance drones would help India watch Chinese navy in Indian Ocean as the latter expands its presence in the IOR (Indian Ocean Region) with a strong emerging footprint in the Arabian Sea courtesy Gwadar port — gateway to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

India, a big buyer of U.S. arms recently named by Washington as a major defense ally, wants to protect its 7,500 km (4,700 mile) coastline as Beijing expands its maritime trade routes to the Middle East, Africa and beyond and Chinese submarines increasingly show up in regional waters.

Currently the drone is being used by Australia, Dominican Republic, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States. It would be the first such purchase by a country that is not a member of the NATO alliance.

The unmanned aircraft can be flown for over 27 hours in the air at a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet and a maximum speed of 240 KTAS.

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