President Donald Trump on Monday offered to mediate the decades-long Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, signaling a shift in long-standing U.S. policy that the issue must be solved bilaterally.
Kashmir has been divided between both countries and China since the end of British colonial rule in 1947, and remains at the root of tensions between the two South Asian neighbors. “If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Trump said at the White House, where he was hosting Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan. “If I can do anything to help, let me know.” He said the people of India and Pakistan were smart and there should be peace in South Asia.
It is far from the first time that Trump has offered to intervene in a seemingly intractable international dispute. U.S. mediation, which has long been sought by Pakistan, is likely to be rejected outright by New Delhi.
On Friday, Trump said he remained at the ready to help South Korea and Japan solve their lingering dispute over World War II-era forced labor that has blighted their trade ties. In 2017, he offered to mediate territorial disputes in the South China Sea between China, Vietnam and other Asia-Pacific countries—a proposal that did not move forward.
Trump also said that Pakistan was “now” helping the U.S. advance the Afghanistan peace process—a conflict his administration hopes to resolve by September. “I don’t think Pakistan respected the United States” in the past, Trump said, according to AFP, but “they are helping us a lot now.” P.M. Khan reiterated his view that the only solution for Afghanistan was a peace deal with the Taliban, adding that he hoped to be able to urge the Taliban to continue negotiations.
The U.S. president had in 2018 cut millions in security assistance to Pakistan after accusing Islamabad of not doing enough to stop militants operating from its soil. On Monday, he hinted that this aid could be restored, pending a new agreement.
Trump told state-run Associated Press of Pakistan he would like to expand trade and economic ties between Islamabad and Washington. He also appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in curbing global extremism. The U.S. president also said Pakistanis were talented people and that he had many Pakistani friends in New York.