US president-elect Donald Trump claims his deal-making chops are legendary. In 1987, he even wrote Trump: The Art of the Deal, which turned out to be a bestseller, even though his ability to rake in the big bucks has been critically questioned since. But can those deal-making skills be employed to resolve the seemingly intractable, decades-old Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan?
Trumps vice-president elect, Mike Pence, thinks so.
On NBC News Meet The Press on Dec. 04, Pence was pressed by journalist Chuck Todd on the incoming Trump administrations stance on Pakistan. Pence replied, Well, clearly theres been great tension between India and Pakistan in recent days. Its resulted in violence along the Kashmir region. And I think what the president-elect expressed in conversations with leaders on both countries was a desire for continued US engagement on building the relationship with both of those countries. These are two nuclear powers.
About Trumps being a mediator in deciding Kashmir, Pence said I think youre also going to see an energetic leadership in the world, prepared to engage and to look for ways that he can bring those extraordinary deal-making skills to bear on lessening tensions and solving problems in the world.
Since 1947, India and Pakistan have been locked in a bloody tussle over Kashmir, with millions of troops amassed on both sides and regular exchange of fire across the border that divides the two nuclear-armed neighbours. Islamabad has also been accused of stoking and financing an insurgency in the Indian-administered parts of Kashmir, even as New Delhis administration in the area has been questioned for its brutality.
The United Nations has a presence in the disputed area through the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), which monitors the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border between the two countries in Kashmir.
And although a legion of leaders of both sidesincluding incumbent prime ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharifhave attempted to push the peace process forward, it has invariably been derailed, for some reason or another. Most prominently, the role of Pakistans powerful military and militant groups have repeatedly come under the scanner for nixing talks. From the Indian side, lately, an increasingly raucous band of right-wing nationalists havent helped matters either. Its an almost insoluble mess, but one that India has always insisted is a bilateral issue, despite Pakistans repeated attempt to bring the matter to global forums, including the UN.
In any case, it isnt entirely clear how an offer from Trump to use his extraordinary deal-making skills to resolve the Kashmir issue will be received in New Delhi and Islamabad. But if its anything like the US president-elects apparent conversation with Pakistans Sharif, possible negotiations will make for an extraordinary event. Maybe even tremendous.
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