If Indian officials thought that United States President Donald Trump’s comment to Prime Minister Imran about the US mediating peace in Kashmir was an inconsequential gaffe, they were highly mistaken. In the weeks after PM Imran Khan’s visit to Washington, the US administration has repeatedly doubled down upon its offer. In a fresh offer this week, Trump again conveyed his interest in the US getting involved in peace negotiations between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. When asked about it by journalists, Trump said he would “certainly intervene” to resolve this 70-year-old dispute if asked to do. More importantly, he once again confirmed that he was doing so because Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him if he would like to be a mediator or arbitrator on Kashmir.

The Indian side, as it had previously done as well, has denied that Modi ever requested Trump for help on this issue, and has vehemently rejected the US’s offer of mediation in Kashmir. India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Friday wrote on Twitter that he had conveyed to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Bangkok that any discussion on Kashmir would be between India and Pakistan only.

Even if Modi had ever asked Trump to step in on the Kashmir issue, it is evident that the Indian administer currently is adamant on the Kashmir dispute being a bilateral conflict only. India’s stance reflects that it is of the opinion that mediation from the US would be favourable for Pakistan in any negotiations in Kashmir. Yet, when India takes this view, it is missing the larger picture of how beneficial direct talks on Kashmir, with negotiation for a neutral third-party, would be for South Asia. India cannot argue that the US is biased towards Pakistan- the record of the past two years overwhelming show that the US shares more comfortable relations with India than Pakistan. The US, a world power which is neutral and has no bias in the Kashmir conflict, can prove to be the player needed to bring an end to a volatile conflict between two nuclear powers.

Nevertheless, whether India truly wants peace in Kashmir or not, it will have to eventually give a public forceful answer to the US on why it does not want mediation. Playing it off will not work anymore- the US has firmly conveyed its interest in mediating. The ball is in India’s court now.