Lawrence Wright’s book The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda’s Road to 9/11 (2007) claims that when Osama bin-Laden, the emir of al-Qaeda, was stationed in Afghanistan, he was reached out by Pakistan’s ISI. I also feel that Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s allegation that the then PM Nawaz Sharif took money from Osama bin Laden to promote jihad in Kashmir backs Wright’s He was apparently asked to train cadets for jihad in Kashmir. He summarily refused this offer for he considered the concerns in the rest of the world to be of greater significance for the jihadi movement. The regime in Pakistan, I suppose, had wanted a quick resolution to the 50-year old deadlock in Kashmir.
Hence, when the democratically elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, visited the United States of America, a discussion on the worsening situation in Kashmir seemed imminent. The escalation of tension between India and Pakistan in February, which brought both countries very close to an armed conflict, seemed to mark the apex of the age-old dispute. Besides the Partition, this is one of the most contentious issues in Indian-Pakistani political discourse, which is why the casual mention of it by American President Donald Trump unsettled many.
President Trump has known to take divisive foreign policy steps around the world. Be it the legitimization of Golan Heights, the establishment of the American embassy in Jerusalem or the withdrawal of troops from Iraq- the long term costs, I feel, have been unjustifiably much.
In the press briefing with PM Khan, President Trump designed the valley to be “a beautiful part of the world [with] bombs all over the place”. He went further, offering to be the “mediator” of the conflict, as he claimed he’d been requested by Indian PM Narendra Modi.
These claims were met with strong opposition in India with the External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, saying that “no such request had been made by the Prime Minister to the U.S. President”. He also brought to the fore Indian policy, which promotes bilateral talks as the means to settle the conflict with Pakistan. Yet this statement wasn’t enough for many in the opposition. They called on the prime minister to come to the House and answer these claims. With his deteriorating track record on issuing statements on contentious issues, I feel not much can be expected.
What holds vitality in this entire conundrum is President Trump. His diplomatic prowess as the ‘Leader of the Free World’ has astounded many. In his bid to exercise maximum power, he has been blamed for dismantling the political institutions that mark a liberal democracy. He has remained consistent in this regard, for diplomatically too, he has dismantled the foreign policy that informed many of his predecessors. It must be noted that this is not his first time taking foreign policy into his own hands for myopic benefits. It marks a pattern of his lackluster approach towards matters of grave concern. This is neither his first, nor his last time making such a blunder. I would say it is an intrinsic part of his presidency.