President Trump in India, his views on Kashmir and Pakistan
President Donald Trump made a two-day trip to India on February 24-25, showed two conflicting trends in India. On the one hand, the Indian government made elaborate arrangements to turn the visit into a very cheerful occasion. On the other hand, some parts of Delhi experienced intense violence while Trump was in the city. The Delhi riots targeted the Muslims, causing them losses of life and property.
The official visit of President Trump was not disturbed by the violence because the visit area was secured fully by the security personnel and the American President remained silent on the violence declaring it as India’s internal affair.
President Trump’s visit to India is part of American effort to expand its relations with India in defense and security domains. The US and India are cooperating not only in bilateral security affairs but they are also working together in Asia-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean area. The US thinks that a strong India could ensure security and stability in the Southern Asia and the Indian Ocean region as a support to American policy in the Asia Pacific region, including the South China Sea area. In the South China Sea area, the US rejects Chinese claims on some small islands and it does not want to give a free hand to China in the area.
India shares the major feature of American policy in Asia Pacific region and South China Sea area because of its problems with China and its desire to somehow challenge China’s pre-eminent position in the region. Further, a policy of working in harmony with the US, in East Asia and Asia-Pacific regions will advance India’s influence in the region and provide greater opportunities for economic relation, especially trade.
The Joint Statement issued at the end of President Trump’s visit to India has talked of greater cooperation in security and strategic affairs of the region. Both view each other as partners who could cooperate to advance their shared regional security vision. India is expected to obtain modern weaponry and equipment from the US. India is also exploring the options of obtaining Missile Security Shield from the US.
The US has reiterated its support for a permanent seat for India in the UN Security Council after its proposed expansion. The US also supports India’s earliest possible admission to the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
The roots of the present-day cooperation can be traced back to 2005 when India and the US signed a “New Framework for the Indo-US Defence Relationship” for increasing cooperation in the field of defense and security. Later, the US agreed to provide fuel for its nuclear reactors that were engaged in peaceful use of this technology like power generation. Other important declaration for cooperation were “Defence Technology and Trade Initiative” (2012) and “Indo-U.S. Declaration on Defense Cooperation” (2014).
American presidential visits to India include Dwight Eisenhower (1959), Richard Nixon (1969), Jimmy Carter (1978), Bill Clinton (2000), George W. Bush (2006), Barak Obama (2010, 2015), and Donald Trump (2020).
During the recently concluded visit of President Trump to India, Pakistan figured in two respects. President Trump attempted to please both Pakistan and India in his statements. However, towards the end of his visit, he supported India’s negative vision of Pakistan.
Pakistan’s official and non-official circles were happy when President Trump talked about the Kashmir problem in his press talk. While suggesting that the Kashmir problem should be addressed through a dialogue between India and Pakistan, he reiterated his offer of playing the role of mediator for solving the Kashmir problem. He also maintained that he had good relations with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and that Pakistan had shown progress in dealing with terrorism. He also appreciated Pakistan’s role in facilitating the talks between the Taliban and the US in Doha. Most Indian leaders were annoyed by Trump’s pro-Pakistan statements.
President Trump pacified Indian leaders and the media by endorsing India’s views on Pakistan with reference to terrorism in the Joint Statement issued at the conclusion of the visit. While condemning cross-border terrorism, President Trump agreed with Indian formulation that Pakistan should not allow its territories to be used for terrorist attacks. The Joint Statement also said that Pakistan will “expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks, including 26/11Mumbai and Pathankot.” They demanded a “concerted action against all terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-i-Tayyiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network, TTP, D-Company, and all their affiliates.”
These remarks in the Joint Statement clearly show that President Trump has reservations on Pakistan’s success in containing terrorism. Though the groups mentioned here are no longer active in Pakistan. The ISIS never existed in Pakistan. Hafiz Saeed has already been convicted by a Pakistani court which reflects a change in Pakistan’s policy towards Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Lashkar-i-Tayyaiba. The TTP is based in Afghanistan and India’s secret agency, RAW, provides funds to the TTP. There is no “D-Company” in Pakistan and the Haqqani Network now operates from Afghanistan.
The endorsement of India’s position on Pakistan by President Trump implies that he shares these views. However, he avoids making direct statement because the US needs Pakistani cooperation for peace in Afghanistan and withdrawal of American troops from there. Therefore, he is applying indirect pressure on Pakistan. His views on Kashmir were not mentioned the Joint Statement because of the opposition of the Indian Government. This also means that President Trump is not expected to go beyond issuing statements on Kashmir.