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Past US administrations took India-Pakistan conflicts seriously; not any more


New Delhi, Feb 28: US President Donald Trump is currently at around 3,000 kilometres from Kashmir, sitting in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, for his historic second summit with North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un. The most powerful man on earth is in Asia where two nuclear-armed neighbours - India and Pakistan -- are witnessing an escalation at the border with the air power of both trying to cow down each other to score points.

US President Donald Trump

However, Trump has yet not felt concerned to tweet anything on the matter though he targeted his domestic rivals in Vietnam.

This is a sharp departure from the past. Though top US officials - be it Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or National Security Adviser John Bolton - have sought peace to prevail but it seems Washington hasn't really tried to handle the situation to defuse the tension it has done in the past.

Welcome to a truly multipolar world.

Trump-Kim summit: US president doesn't rule out peace treaty with N KoreaTrump-Kim summit: US president doesn't rule out peace treaty with N Korea

It is not the first time that India and Pakistan have inched closer to war. War rhetoric has poured in from both countries but every time, it's Washington which has taken efforts to cool down the tempers.

Bill Clinton cooled things down in 1999

For example, in 1999 when the Kargil conflict (it was a non-international armed conflict) broke out after Pakistani intruders tried to reclaim parts of the Valley, India warned of dire consequences. The two countries were on a collision course on that occasion also and the United Nations was not much able to control things.

It was the then US president Bill Clinton who stepped in and put to use his diplomatic skills to push the foes off the collision course. The then Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif was called to Washington and Clinton had reminded him of the danger that the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 had posed to the world while explaining the threat that India-Pakistan tussle gave to the subcontinent, something the then secretary of state Strobe Talbott revealed in his memoirs.

"unlike Kennedy and Khrushchev in 1962, (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee (then the Indian Prime Minister) and Sharif did not realize how close they were to the brink, so there was an even greater risk that they would blindly stumble across it," Talbott had said.

The US's interference saw the subcontinent avert a major danger then.

Not something of Clinton's calibre is being seen with Trump who has remained largely silent with the escalating tension apart from uttering obvious remarks like: "It would be wonderful if India and Pakistan were to get along."

Being in Asia, Trump did not feel Indo-Pak tension important enough to tweetBeing in Asia, Trump did not feel Indo-Pak tension important enough to tweet

Though a few gentlemen in the US ranks have spoken to officials in India and Pakistan but there is certainly no solid initiative on Washington's behalf to make the two neighbours sit and talk. The US has no designated ambassador to Pakistan but a charge d'affaires which means there is not much high-level diplomatic mechanism to manage the complex problem.

Richard Armitage took to the initiative to give peace a chance in 2002

In 2002, months after a terror attack on the Indian Parliament, New Delhi and Islamabad had almost plunged into a war as troop mobilisation occurred along the border. It was again Washington which had stepped in and the credit this time went to the then deputy secretary of state of George W Bush administration Richard Armitage.

"Armitage, who admitted he had no doubt that Pakistani generals would deploy nuclear weapons, shuttled between the two countries to ensure that neither they nor the Indians actually did so," Rafia Zakaria wrote in an opinion piece on CNN.

Zakaria said that no Armitage-like figure is seen in the current administration. The current NSA though made an initial remark of supporting India's right to self-defence, he hasn't backed it up showing more interest on the issue. For the current Trump administration, it's the happenings in North Korea and Venezuela that matter more than a probable India-Pakistan clash.

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