Why Nikki Haley's Remarks on India-Pakistan Cannot be Ignored
NEW DELHI: In an environment where question marks still hand over details of US President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, the remarks of US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on India-Pakistan relations are significant. More so as the vagueness that both Islamabad and New Delhi were interpreting as being in their favour has now ended with, “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.”
And if this was not direct enough she added, “We don’t think, we should wait till something happens. 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 participates in, but also wouldn’t be surprised if the President (Trump) participates in that as well.”
Haley was speaking to reporters in New York at a briefing. These were considered remarks, in response to questions on Kashmir and India Pakistan tensions. Haley could have parried but did not, and chose to go straight into the controversy making it clear that the Trump administration was looking at more direct involvement between the two hostile neighbours.
India reacted with a predictable, “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 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.”
Subsequently a US spokesperson reiterated the “we expect both countries to resolve their issues” that a section of the media has tried to project as a contradiction of Haley’s strong remarks. That this is not so is clear from Haley’s position in the current administration, and her proximity to President Trump who has given her a cabinet rank and through a memorandum decreedthat she will be a regular attendee of both the Homeland Security Coucil and the National Security Council. Both are top heavy bodies with the President and top officials of the current administration.
Haley will also be the UN Security Council president for April, and is clearly a authoritative voice in the Trump establishment. As former officials pointed out, her statement was clear, categorical, and more detailed than required. She made it clear that one, the Trump administration far from being indifferent, was very concerned about the tensions between India and Pakistan;
2. That it wants to explore methods to deescalate what it sees as a “conflict”;
3. That it is not prepared to wait for the situation to explode;
4. That it is prepared to play a proactive role to ensure that the tensions do not increase;
5. And that this role will be explored seriously not just by the National Security Council but also President Trump.
Haley was clearly speaking with a mandate. And instead of evading the question with a “it is for India and Pakistan to decide” went into the above details making a statement on the issue.
This is a first under President Trump and clearly places US-India relations on a not-very-smooth sail. It is a firm indication that current thinking is looking at not just a ‘gentle nudge’ but at a proactive role for the US in easing India Pakistan tensions on Kashmir.
The Indian government has been working hard to cement and build relations with the new US administratiopn with both National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S.Jaishankar having made at least two visits each to Washington. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit and meet President Trump in autumn.