WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Monday asked Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to moderate his rhetoric and avoid escalating conflict with India over the Kashmir issue, implicitly urging Islamabad to move on from its hand-wringing over New Delhi’s legislative and administrative changes removing special status for the region.

“Spoke to my two good friends, Prime Minister Modi of India, and Prime Minister Khan of Pakistan, regarding Trade, Strategic Partnerships and, most importantly, for India and Pakistan to work towards reducing tensions in Kashmir. A tough situation, but good conversations!” Trump said in a cryptic tweet that coming from someone not known for subtlety was quite nuanced.

The President’s comments, which followed separate phone calls to the two leaders, first with Prime Minister Modi followed by a call to Imran Khan, gave no comfort to Pakistan, which went ballistic over constitutional charges relating to Jammu and Kashmir that India says is its internal matter. If anything, there was admonition for Khan for some of the vituperative language he employed in a series of tweets, which Modi told Trump was not conducive to peace in the region.

Trump spoke by telephone with Khan to discuss “the need to reduce tensions and moderate rhetoric with India over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir,” the White House said in a readout of the Imran Khan call, adding that the US President “reaffirmed the need to avoid escalation of the situation, and urged restraint” on both sides, the White House said.

The telephone diplomacy that essentially asked Pakistan

to get back on the bilateral track with India followed a setback for Islamabad in its effort to generate greater US and global mediation and intervention over its claims in Kashmir, despite having committed in agreements with India to resolve the matter bilaterally. New Delhi says it will only talk to Pakistan if the country abjures its use of terror groups against India and acts against perpetrators of attacks in India that it coddles.

In a series of rage-filled tweets, Imran Khan on Sunday railed against what he called a “fascist racist Hindu Supremacist Modi Govt” and its “doctrine of hate & genocide” that he suggested endangered Muslims because of the move to effect constitutional chances regarding Jammu and Kashmir.

But in perhaps an unintended smack down of Islamabad, Saudi Arabia, whose hand feeds Pakistan, showed no support or sympathy for Pakistan as it went ahead with a massive $ 15 billion deal with India’s Reliance Industry. Modi is also scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for state visits later this week on his way back from Paris for bilateral exchanges with France. He will return to Biarritz, France, to attend the G-7 summit, where he will be special guest of French President Emmanuel Macron. In fact, it is likely he will meet President Trump informally on the margins.

Such vigorous global engagement, particularly with Gulf and Muslim countries, belies Pakistan’s efforts to project Modi and his governing party as Islamophobic. In fact, in UAE, Modi will receive the Order of Zayed, the country’s highest civil decoration that was conferred on him in April for giving a boost to bilateral relations. The award is named after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s founding father, and acquires special significance as it was awarded to Modi in the birth centenary of Sheikh Zayed. China’s President Xi Jin Ping shared the award with leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea last year. In Bahrain, the ruling Al Khalifa royal family will host a banquet dinner for the Indian Prime Minister, who will also launch the renovation of Shreenathji (Shree Krishna) temple in Manama.

So much as Islamabad attempted to put India in the dock for its legislative and administrative action in Kashmir, the effort has only highlighted Pakistan’s diminishing profile and marginalisation in the international area, including the Gulf. “Pakistan’s reaction appeared to be limited to high-level hand-wringing… it increasingly feels like a nation with its back against the wall, with few options to protect its existential interests,” the New York Times said in a report last week, noting that “Its economy is teetering on the brink of collapse, and its international allies have either stayed silent over Kashmir or defected in support of India.”

“Muslim nations have usually supported Pakistan’s claims on Kashmir. But with their own economic and political troubles at home, many have tilted toward India, looking to secure lucrative deals with the ascending economic power. The biggest blow came from the influential United Arab Emirates, which stated that Kashmir was an internal matter for India, withdrawing any support to raise the issue internationally,” the report noted.

It has now emerged that even Pakistan’s patron China stood isolated at the UN Security Council last week as it sought to back its protege. None of the 14 other members backed Beijing’s efforts to generate a statement from what was essentially an informal consultation on the situation in Kashmir. Reports that Britain sided with China or was ambivalent have turned out to be false. Absent any formal outcome, representatives of China and Pakistan (which was not present at the UNSC meting) had made statements misrepresenting the sentiments of the UNSC.

While there is widespread concern about the human rights situation in the Kashmir Valley given the crimp by the Indian government on communication apprehending violence, global opinion appears to take cognisance of India’s difficulty in containing what New Delhi says is a jihadist insurrection sustained from Pakistan. President Trump’s cryptic reference to “tough situation” was seemingly in reference to this dilemma.