28 February 2019   Leave a comment

For those who wish to become a head of state at some point, the collapse of the summit in Hanoi between US President Trump and North Korean leader Kim should be an important lesson: never put your prestige on the line unless you are certain it will not be damaged. The abrupt cancellation of the summit (stiffing the Vietnamese who likely had prepared a magnificent lunch for the leaders) was a frank recognition that the two sides had not prepared adequately. Typically, the final statement of a summit is prepared before the summit even occurs, and the heavy lifting is done by aides who work out all the stumbling blocks before their bosses show up. There might be a few minor details left to the leaders, but there should be nothing that would derail a final agreement.

There have been other US summits with foreign leaders that failed (Eisenhower and Khrushchev, 1960; Reagan and Gorbachev, 1986; and Clinton, Barak, and Arafat, 2000), so the damage is not irreversible. But the Hanoi summit seems to be in a class by itself since all the media reports indicate that Trump’s aides had tried to persuade Mr. Trump from going to the summit. Mr. Trump’s belief in personal relationships as well as his confidence in his deal-making abilities are hardly sufficient in the world of international politics. Mr. Trump aggravated the failure in Hanoi by his ham-fisted defense of Mr. Kim in the cruel death of the American citizen, Otto Warmbier. Mr. Trump indicated that he believed Mr. Kim when Kim said that he did not know about Warmbier’s dire state. Mr. Trump has given Russian President Putin, Saudi Crown Prince Salman, and now Kim Jong-un a free pass on threats to US interests.

Trump and Kim in Hanoi

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan took an important step in reducing the tension with India by announcing that Pakistan will release the captured Indian pilot on Friday. The move must have been difficult for the Pakistani military but it was the correct decision. China ran an editorial in support of its ally, Pakistan, in Global Times:

“Restraint is not easy when a country has suffered such a horrible attack. However, terrorist organizations are common enemies of both India and Pakistan. Pakistani people also have been victims of terrorism for the last few decades. India needs to deal with the problem by working with Pakistan and rallying support of the international community to fight terrorism.”

Now the question is whether India can show similar restraint, and the matter is pressing since Prime Minister Modi is confronting a national election in May and there is a strong anti-Pakistan sentiment in India right now. The Economist (not a fan of Modi) highlights the situation:

“Mr Modi has made a career of playing with fire. He first rose to prominence as chief minister of Gujarat when the state was racked by anti-Muslim pogroms in 2002. Although there is no evidence he orchestrated the violence, he has shown no compunction about capitalising on the popularity it won him in Hindu-nationalist circles. With a difficult election ahead, he may think he can pull off the same trick again by playing the tough guy with Pakistan, but without actually getting into a fight. However, the price of miscalculation does not bear thinking about. Western governments are pushing for a diplomatic settlement at the UN. If Mr Modi really is a patriot, he will now step back.

In the current crisis, India is the aggrieved party since the attack by JeM in Indian-controlled Kashmir was horrific. But the tortured history of the dispute over Kashmir is filled with atrocities. Simply repeating that pattern will produce no peace.

Posted February 28, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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