K Ramachandra Murthy

When two bullies can meet and produce much needed peace to Korean peninsula, can’t a dragon and an elephant persuade the wild goat (Markhor-Capra falconeri), national animal of Pakistan, to settle decades old bloody dispute? This is the question many sane Indians and Pakistanis asked themselves after watching US President Donald Trump and the North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un shake hands and praise each other. It may be the case of more optics and less substance. Whatever may happen to the tentative agreement signed by the leaders of the US and Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea), the summit and the signature are enough to describe it as historic. American politicians may find loopholes in the agreement and blame Trump for trusting the devil, the fat, shot fellow, as he was contemptuously described by the US President. North Koreans may find fault with Kim for signing on the dotted line without obtaining an assurance that US forces will be moved out of its neighbourhood and the nuclear umbrella for South Korea and Japan will be removed forever. Lifting of the biting sanctions will happen only after complete denuclearization took place. It was Kim who agreed to denuclearize, while Trump only accepted to scale down his military presence in the peninsula. South Korea and Japan will have to help Kim on the economic front to help North Korea recover from the deep crisis caused by UN sanctions. For Trump it was a win-win situation. Only time would tell whether the extraordinary Singapore summit would bring lasting peace to Koreas. For now, Japan and South Korea can heave a sigh of relief as the Doomsday Clock has been put back a few seconds or minutes.

The “Little Rocket Man” did the trick on 28 November 2017 when he test-fired his Hawsong-15 Inter Continental Ballistic Missile showing that the US, the mightiest power on earth, is within his range. Three weeks later, in his New Year’s Day address, Kim repeated the standard North Korean pledge to rid the entire Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons thus removing the threat to his country, his regime and his family. The US cannot afford to allow nuclear weapons with ‘an obviously mad man,’ as Trump called Kim a few months ago. Kim’s pledge gave the opening for Trump who grabbed the opportunity to launch a diplomatic drive. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, however, made it clear that, “a complete and verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is the only outcome the US will accept.” That is not going to be easy. Even for a comprehensive deal between Washington and Pyongyang to be signed, it will take months, if not years. The third generation Kim is not a fool to destroy all the nuclear launching facilities and weapons without the US taking up matching measures.

It is widely accepted that the Singapore summit would not have been possible without China goading young Kim to participate in a dialogue. Kim may not have trusted Trump when the latter said he would ensure security for North Korea. He would have been convinced by China that it would go to his rescue when and if the US dares to attack North Korea. China has played the role of a super power by interacting with another super power to broker peace in Korea. It was possible because Trump was prepared to go by the Mandarin script. Can China take the same kind of initiative to resolve the Kashmir tangle? Will India allow China to do so? When the US could play ping-pong with China, why not India? Both the US and India were distrustful of China for many decades. There have been flash points in Indo-China relations as well as US-China ties. Trump was, despite his image, shrewd enough to involve China to clinch the issue.

Narendra Modi has been meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping more frequently than any other Indian leader did in the past. Modi took Jinping to Ahmedabad during the latter’s visit to India. The Chinese leader has promised to visit India again. There appears to be a vibrant equation between Jinping and Modi. India has been maintaining, from the days of Nehru, that it would not brook third party involvement on the question of Kashmir. The dialogue, if at all, should be between the Union government and the people of Kashmir. New Delhi may consider talking to Kashmiri separatists. But it is not prepared to sit with the separatists and the representatives of Pakistan. Vajpayee was bold enough to make an extraordinary gesture by having talks with the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and going to Lahore by bus. Had not General Pervez Musharraf played mischief by trying to occupy Kargil, Vajpayee and Sharif would have made peace in Kashmir possible. Both India and Pakistan have been spending huge funds to keep the vigil on the borders. That money could be diverted to the welfare of the people of both the countries. Modi has enough clout to convince the people that the country has to be flexible and pragmatic in order to reconcile with Pakistan by taking China’s help. China is in a position to persuade Pakistan to stop sending terrorists to Kashmir and seek friendly relations with India. India should not have any reservations in accepting China, whose economy is five times that of India, as a big brother. It has been a popular belief that only a BJP regime in Delhi can solve the Kashmir problem. Another belief is that the governments in India try to go to war against Pakistan or create a warlike situation on the border to create emotions in the name of nationalism and patriotism. Modi can do exactly the opposite and make peace, instead of war, and yet win the elections. He has the caliber to take such a decision and the vocabulary to explain to the people the value of peace. It is expected that some would not like this suggestion and call the writer a traitor. But this is the only way to have peace in Kashmir. Kashmiri leaders, including Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, would be happy to see the end to the conflict between India and Pakistan on account of Kashmir which has been relentlessly bleeding.