The remarks are the first time that Ms Haley, as a member of the Trump Cabinet, has addressed tensions between India and Pakistan.
New Delhi: Hours after the United States rattled India with the suggestion that it would try and “find its place” in efforts to de-escalate Indo-Pak tensions and not wait till “something happens”, thereby indicating that President Donald Trump could play a role in such endeavours, India sent a strong signal to the US that the suggestion wasn’t welcome. The Indian government reiterated that its position on the India-Pakistan issue being a bilateral one hadn’t changed. New Delhi in its response also urged the international community to put in place “international mechanisms” to address “terrorism emanating from Pakistan”, thereby singling out Pakistan-based terrorism as the main obstacle in ties between the two countries.
India was reacting to a comment made by the Indian-origin US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley that signalled an apparent change in the US stance of not engaging in Indo-Pakistan disputes. The previous administration under former President Barack Obama had maintained that Kashmir was a bilateral issue between the two countries.
India has also always maintained that the Kashmir issue is a bilateral one with Pakistan and has ruled out any third party mediation, either by the UN or the US. Pakistan, on the other hand, has constantly raised the Kashmir issue at various UN fora and has always expressed readiness to have interlocutors from both the world body as well as from Washington to resolve the issue as it has constantly sought to internationalise it.
In its response from New Delhi, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said, “The (Indian) government’s position for bilateral redressal of all India-Pakistan issues in an environment free of terror and violence hasn’t changed. We, of course, expect the international community and organisations to enforce international mechanisms and mandates concerning terrorism emanating from Pakistan, which continues to be the single biggest threat to peace and stability in our region and beyond.”
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley was quoted by news agencies as telling reporters in New York, “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, “We very much think that we should be proactive in the way that we are seeing tensions rise and conflicts start to bubble up and so we want to see if we can be a part of that.” “So I think that will be something that you will see members of the National Security Council participate in but also wouldn’t be surprised if the President participates in that as well,” she said.
Ms Haley said she expects that the administration is going to be in talks and it would try and “find its place to be a part of that (de-escalating tensions)”, she said, while addressing a press conference after assuming the role of president of the Security Council for the month of April. She made the remarks when asked if the US can make any efforts to get India and Pakistan together for peace talks as tensions between the two neighbours over the Kashmir issue have risen. The remarks are the first time that Ms Haley, as a member of the Trump Cabinet, has addressed tensions between India and Pakistan.
Former state department spokesman John Kirby had said that the issue of Kashmir was for the two nations to work out and the US had no role to play in it. The US had also earlier said it was for India and Pakistan to determine the pace, scope and character of talks on the Kashmir issue.
However, some foreign policy experts have cautioned that it will be premature to draw a conclusion based on comments by the US envoy. “Firstly, the comments were in response to a question. We do not know whether it is a policy decision by the US or an off-the-cuff remark. It is too premature to come to a conclusion based on the remarks,” former envoy to the US Meera Shankar told news agencies.
Former diplomat G. Parthasarathy also downplayed Ms Haley’s comments, saying she is just US’ representative to the UN and she never mentioned that the US would mediate between India and Pakistan. “Let’s not jump to a conclusion. The US has always favoured de-escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan,” he was quoted as saying, adding, “Ms Haley’s statement was badly worded but it does not indicate that the US will mediate.”