The United States views Jammu and Kashmir as a nuclear flashpoint, considering the capabilities of India and Pakistan, and this is a rare point of agreement between U.S. President Donald Trump and the country’s professional strategists. He conveyed the importance of reducing tensions and maintaining peace to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. He also urged Mr. Khan to “moderate rhetoric with India”, echoing India’s sentiments. He had spoken to Mr. Khan last week too, as relations between the neighbours took a turn for the worse after India’s decision to revoke the special status of J&K on August 5. Under Mr. Modi, India has revised its long-held policy on J&K and ruled out any role for Pakistan in New Delhi’s ties with the troubled region, while reiterating its claim over Pakistan occupied territory. Pakistan’s ruling establishment has flourished by using Kashmir as a trope of Islamic nationalism, even as its society sank in radicalism and violence. With Islamabad crying itself hoarse over the sudden turnaround in India’s posture and considering the history of conflicts between the two countries, the U.S. — even under an isolationist President — could not have looked the other way.
Mr. Trump’s anxiety about India-Pakistan tensions is also linked to his desperation to disentangle the U.S. from the conflict in Afghanistan — now in its 18th year — before his reelection bid in 2020. In the jihadi world view, Kashmir and Afghanistan are two fronts of the same war, and the Pakistani state has conveniently peddled this idea for long. The U.S. is no longer swayed by Pakistan’s argument that the ‘road to peace in Afghanistan runs through Kashmir’, but it is certainly conscious of Islamabad’s proclivity to mischief, most evidently by supporting terror groups launched into Afghanistan and Kashmir. India has always resisted, rightly, any linkage between Afghanistan and Kashmir but it cannot be dismissive of the implications of the U.S’s inevitable withdrawal from Afghanistan. The U.S. has gradually but decisively tilted in favour of India on a range of regional strategic questions in recent years, but its search for an Afghan escape route forces it to keep Islamabad in good humour. While Mr. Trump and his administration have been largely sympathetic to India’s latest move on J&K, his tweet on Monday projected parity between Mr. Modi and Mr. Khan by terming them “my two good friends.” While India opposes any third party mediation, it expects the U.S. to keep Pakistan on a tight leash. India’s position that Kashmir is strictly an internal matter can be reinforced only by holding its citizens close and reassured. New Delhi’s dealings with J&K must be becoming of the world’s largest democracy.