With India making it abundantly clear that it brooks no third-party mediation on Kashmir, the United States will now be well-advised to give up its hyphenated approach, a baggage of the Cold War era diplomacy, towards the two South Asian neighbours. A significant takeaway from the joint media interaction of Narendra Modi and Donald Trump, on the sidelines of the G7 summit in France, was that the American President was in complete agreement with the Prime Minister that India and Pakistan could resolve their pending issues bilaterally without involving any third country. By openly conceding the point emphasised by Modi, he signalled acknowledgement of the new geopolitical realities in the region. Earlier, Trump made repeated offers over the past month to mediate between the two countries, a prospect that would have emboldened Islamabad, which has been desperately trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue, and the non-state actors instigating terrorist activities from the Pakistani soil. After failing to enlist support from Islamic countries and the US, Pakistan is growing restive. The tone and tenor of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s address to the nation on Kashmir suggest growing desperation of a country that has made terrorism an instrument of the state policy. His virtual threat of nuclear attack on India and the belligerent outburst that his country would ‘go to any extent on Kashmir’ are highly reprehensible. Last week, Pakistan’s attempts to create a stir in the United Nations Security Council over Kashmir fell flat after most of the participating nations agreed that Kashmir was a bilateral matter. The UAE bestowing its highest civilian honour on Modi came as a major embarrassment.
Islamabad must remember that the Balakot airstrikes called its recurring nuclear bluff and drew a new red line in the counter-terrorism strategy. Since it is clear that India will no more be cowed down by nuclear sabre-rattling, it would be futile for Khan and his Rawalpindi advisers to repeatedly hold out such threats. If his promise of ‘Naya Pakistan’ has to become a reality, he must focus his attention on ridding the country of its economic ills, abandoning the path of terror and initiating credible and irreversible measures to rein in anti-India terror outfits operating inside the country. Pakistan must stop exploiting the compulsions of the US, which wants Islamabad’s cooperation to work out an exit deal with the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan. Islamabad is playing with fire by invoking the Kashmir card to mount pressure on Washington. It has dropped subtle hints that the efforts to get the Taliban to the negotiating table could be hampered because of tensions with India over Kashmir, especially after India revoked Article 370. This is a dangerous policy tactic that is sure to backfire on Pakistan.