Washington, February 22: US President Donald Trump is encouraging a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan, the White House said on Friday, emphasising that any successful dialogue between the two neighbours would be possible only if Pakistan cracks down on terrorists and extremists on its territory.
Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after New Delhi ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 last year. India’s decision evoked strong reactions from Pakistan, which downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian envoy.
“I think what you’ll hear from the President is very much encouraging a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan, encouraging the two countries to engage in bilateral dialogue with each other to resolve their differences,” a senior administration official said, when asked whether Trump would offer to mediate on the Kashmir issue again during his upcoming maiden visit to India.
Trump had last month again offered to “help” resolve the dispute between India and Pakistan, saying that the US was watching the developments between the two countries over Kashmir “very closely”.
Although Trump offered to mediate on the Kashmir issue in the past, New Delhi has told Washington that it is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan and there is no scope for any third-party mediation.
“We continue to believe a core foundation of any successful dialogue between the two (Indian and Pakistan) is based on continued momentum in Pakistan’s efforts to crack down on terrorists and extremists on its territory. So we continue to look for that,” the official said.
The White House official’s comments came after the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) retained Pakistan for four more months on the ‘Grey List’ with a stern warning from the global anti-terror financing watchdog to complete the 27-point action plan it has been given by June 2020 or face being put on the ‘Black List’.
“But I think the president will urge both countries to seek to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control (LoC) and refrain from actions or statements that could increase tensions in the region,” said the official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.
India has defended its move on Kashmir in August, saying the special status provisions only gave rise to terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”. New Delhi has also asked Islamabad to accept the reality and stop its anti-India rhetoric.
Responding to a question on the Afghanistan peace process, the official said the US would just encourage India, as it does with regional countries, to do whatever it can to support this peace process so that it can be successful and can potentially end 19 years of military, diplomatic, economic engagement.
“You know, that we can end the military engagement. We will be continuing our diplomatic and economic engagement, which has been there over the last 19 years. But we certainly would look to India to support this peace process — an important country in the region, important to the overall stability of the region. So I think if the issue comes up, that is what would be the request from the president,” the official said.
Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will lead a 12-member American delegation to Ahmedabad, Agra and New Delhi on February 24 and 25. (PTI)