While addressing a news conference in New York on Monday, Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, talked about the possibility of the US mediating between India and Pakistan. “It’s absolutely right that this administration is concerned about the relationship between India and Pakistan and very much wants to see how we de-escalate any sort of conflict going forward,” she said, “I would expect that the [Trump] administration is going to be in talks and try and find its place to be a part of that because it’s concerned about the situation.” These seemingly innocuous and common sense statements have produced two sets of opposing reactions in India and Pakistan, and in response to those reactions the United States, through the State Department, has had to modify its line.
Pakistan openly welcomed the role, as it has been its policy to seek international mediation on the issue of Kashmir, and India, also sticking to its policy, rebuked any effort at negotiating peace. A similar response was made to the recent offer by Iran to mediate between the two South-Asian neighbours – Pakistan willing to cooperate and India belligerent.
While these positions have become set in stone, it was important to see if the new US government could modify them at all. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump had indicated his willingness to intercede in the conflict, and the comments by US ambassador Nikki Haley seemed like a clear continuation of that policy. However, the State Department, under Rex Tilerson, has a different approach to the matter.
The Department spokesperson repeated the line that both countries should cooperate but carefully kept the US out of any mooted negotiation. This reversion back to the previous US stance indicates a lot about how future US policy is going to be conducted. It is becoming increasingly clear that the claims of US president Donald Trump during the campaign do not necessarily have to translate into similar policies. Foreign policy has also been a subject where the new administration mostly allowed the State Department to effectively dictate terms. In these circumstances, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where the US would insert itself into the South Asian situation and take it upon itself to fix it. The Presidency and the State Department are at odds, and the latter is calling the shots – at least for now.(An excerpt from Editorial Daily The Nation published here)