Trump offers to mediate Kashmir dispute again

US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in New Delhi on February 25, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 25 February 2020

Trump offers to mediate Kashmir dispute again

  • President previously said India and Pakistan could ‘sort it out’ mutually

NEW DELHI: US President Donald Trump expressed his willingness to mediate in the Kashmir row between India and Pakistan during a solo special press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday evening, despite going cold on the idea in the past.

India and Pakistan both lay claim to Kashmir, which they administer in part but claim in full, and the territory lies at the heart of decades of hostility between them. The most recent flashpoint occurred last August, when India revoked the special status of its portion and brought it under direct rule.

Trump has previously said he would mediate in the dispute, but last year walked back on his offer because the two countries could discuss it among themselves and “sort it (Kashmir) out mutually.”

But, in a change of tune during his first official visit to India, he said he would do whatever he could and cited his good relationship with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“My relationships with both the gentlemen are good. There have been difficulties in Pakistan and we are seeing what we can do about it. Anything I can do to mediate and I can do to help, I will do. They are working on Kashmir. Kashmir has been a thorn in lots of people’s eyes for a long time,” Trump said.

He concluded his intense two-day trip with a major defense deal with India, referring to US-India relations as “special” and “truly stronger than ever before.”

“We expanded our defense cooperation with India which is to purchase more than $3 billion advance military equipment including Apache and MH16 Romeo helicopters, the finest in the world,” he said during a joint press conference with Modi earlier on Tuesday. Modi said the bilateral ties were the “most important partnership of the 21st century.”

Trump said they also discussed the Afghan peace process at length.

“India would like the deal to happen in Afghanistan. Modi was keen that the deal should happen,” Trump added, referring to the peace agreement the US and the Taliban are expected to sign this Saturday.

But, according to New Delhi-based foreign affairs analyst Dr. Zorawar Daulet Singh, there is little for India to do in that process.

“I don’t see India playing any major role in Afghanistan or the US expecting India to do anything substantive,” he told Arab News. “Pakistan is their key ally in this conflict. India is trying to show how valuable it can be for the US — as an export market for trade and military equipment — as well as upholding US strategic interests in Asia.”

Trump offered no comment on the violence in India that accompanied his visit, with 10 people dying since Monday in clashes in the northeastern part of the capital.

Media reports said the violence broke out when radical Hindu groups attacked demonstrators protesting India’s new citizenship laws.

Protests have been ongoing in several parts of the country since the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed last December. Under the law, many people fear they would be rendered stateless, especially members of the Muslim community.

“I don’t want to discuss it. I want to leave it to India and hopefully they are going to make the right decision. It’s really up to India,” Trump said.

A White House statement shared by the US Embassy in New Delhi ahead of Trump's arrival said that the president would raise the “religious freedom issue” in the bilateral meeting between the two heads of state.

The world was looking to India to continue to uphold its democratic traditions and respect for religious minorities, the statement added.

“It’s really sad that the US president is ignoring the plight of Indian Muslims who are facing a state-sponsored attack in the national capital,” Delhi-based social activist Nadim Khan told Arab News. “The members of the ruling party, in cahoots with the police, are targeting Muslims for their protest against the CAA.”

Indonesia declares state of emergency as coronavirus toll jumps

Updated 53 min 51 sec ago

Indonesia declares state of emergency as coronavirus toll jumps

  • Joko Widodo’s administration has been heavily criticized for not imposing lockdowns in major cities, including Jakarta
  • Indonesia’s leader offered few details of the state of emergency beyond calling for stricter social distancing

JAKARTA: Indonesian leader Joko Widodo declared a state of emergency Tuesday as coronavirus deaths in the world’s fourth most populous country jumped again, but he resisted calls for a nationwide lockdown.
Widodo’s administration has been heavily criticized for not imposing lockdowns in major cities, including the capital Jakarta, a vast megalopolis home to about 30 million people where most of the country’s virus deaths have been reported.
Indonesia’s leader offered few details of the state of emergency beyond calling for stricter social distancing, but announced $1.5 billion in beefed-up social assistance and subsidies for low-income workers.
Tens of millions eke out a living on poorly-paid jobs in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
“To overcome the impact of COVID-19, we’ve chosen the option of large-scale social distancing,” Widodo told reporters.
“We must learn from the experience in other countries, but we cannot copy them because every country has its own characteristics,” he added.
On Tuesday, authorities said 136 people had died after contracting the virus, with 1,528 confirmed cases of infection.
But the latter figure is widely thought to be well below the real number in the archipelago of more than 260 million.
The Indonesian Doctors’ Association has warned that the coronavirus crisis is far worse than has been officially reported and that the government’s response is “in tatters.”
Jakarta’s governor has said nearly 300 suspected or confirmed victims of the virus have been wrapped in plastic and quickly buried in the city since the start of March.
The capital’s top politician has been pushing for a total lockdown of the city.
Also Tuesday, Indonesia’s corrections agency said it is set to offer early release to about 30,000 inmates to help stem the spread of the virus in over-crowded prisons. The number amounts to more than 10 percent of Indonesia’s 272,000 inmate population.