NEW DELHI/UNITED NATIONS: India on Tuesday snubbed the US’ offer to help de-escalate tensions with Pakistan, saying that its position on bilateral redressal of all issues between the two neighbors has not changed.
It also said that the international community needs to address the issue of terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
“Government’s position for bilateral redressal of all India-Pakistan issues in an environment free of terror and violence hasn’t changed,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Gopal Baglay said.
“We, of course, expect the 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,” he said.
The reaction came after Nikki Haley, the US Permanent Representative to the UN, said on Monday that the US was concerned about the state of India-Pakistan relations and President Donald Trump himself might get involved in a peace process between the two South Asian antagonists.
“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,” Indian-American Haley, who holds a cabinet rank in the Trump administration, said at a news conference at the United Nations.
“I would expect that the administration is going to be in talks and try and find its place to be part of that process,” the former Governor of South Carolina said, adding: “And also wouldn’t be surprised if the President participates as well.”
During his campaign in 2016, Trump had offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, but was careful to add that it was only if the two nations wanted him to.
In an interview to The Hindustan Times he said that he “would be honored” to be a moderator. “I think if they wanted me to, I would love to be the mediator or arbitrator.”
Haley was answering a question from a reporter at her news conference on assuming the presidency of the Security Council for the month of April.
The reporter pointed out that India does not want an interlocutor for talks with Pakistan, while Islamabad wanted the US or another country to facilitate talks between them and asked if the US would get the leaders of the two countries to talk.
With Secretary of State Rex Tillerson keeping a low public profile and generally avoiding the media, Haley is emerging as the public face of US diplomacy making her presence felt in the media aided by her cabinet status.
Her statement about India-Pakistan relations, therefore, assume importance and it is the first high-level Trump administration statement on India’s relations with Pakistan.
While it is not clear what steps the US could take, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet Trump in Washington in May when the two could discuss it.
Former President Barack Obama also had said during his 2008 campaign that the US should mediate the Kashmir dispute. The offer met with strong opposition in India and he did not actively follow it up when he became President.
“We don’t think we should wait until something happens” Haley said. “We very much think we should be pro-active in what we are seeing, tensions rise and conflicts seem to bubble up and so want to see if we can be a part of that.”
“So, that will be something you will see, that is something that members of the National Security Council participate in,” she said.
Haley also said that she sounds strong because that’s how her Sikh parents raised her in Punjab.
She said she does her “job to the best of my abilities and if that comes out blunt, comes out strong, I am one of two brothers and a sister and my parents raised us all to be strong.”
Her father Ajit Singh Randhwa, is from Amritsar district. He is an agriculture science professor. Her mother is Raj Kaur Randhwa.
One of her brothers, Mitti Randhwa, was an Army officer who saw action in Operation Desert Storm, 1990-91, leading a company tasked with finding chemical weapons.
Just over two months into her office as the first Indian American to be appointed to a cabinet-level position, she has made waves by calling a spade a spade.
She has called the UN Human Rights Council “corrupt”, the UN of being a partner of a “corrupt” government, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a “war criminal”, and declared she was free to “beat up on Russia”.
And she perceives her job as shaking up the UN and pulling it by its purse strings, kicking and screaming, to carry out reforms.
A TV reporter addressed her as “Madam President” because she presides over the Security Council this month, and quipped that’s what she may be called in eight years — a hint that she may become the nation’s President.
Haley said that in every job she has held “people assumed I was looking for something bigger”.
But, she said, “In reality I am the daughter of Indian parents who said to me whatever you do be great at it and make sure people remember you for it. That’s all I have ever shown, try to be.”
Haley has emerged as the face of American diplomacy with her outspokenness and availability to the public and the media – she was on three Sunday morning TV talk shows speaking out on US foreign policy, in addition to a speech at the Council on Foreign relations.
Unlike most of President Donald Trump’s cabinet and top officials she has a warm relationship with the otherwise belligerent media.
In contrast, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has kept away from the media and minimised public appearances. Even his spokesperson, Mark Toner, is a holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration.
This makes Haley the only accessible authentic voice of Trump foreign policy, raising her public profile.
That in turn has led to media speculation in recent days that she is likely to succeed Tillerson.
Answering a question if she was offered the job of Secretary of State, Haley said that Trump did not make the offer when she met him at the Trump Tower barely two weeks after the election in November.
But she said, “The original call that I got to go to Trump Tower was to discuss Secretary of State,” adding, “when we went in that was the position we were discussing.”
(This post was updated on April 4, 2017)