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Trump offers to mediate on Kashmir; India rejects

By Lalit K Jha
Last updated on: July 23, 2019 09:10 IST

United States President Donald Trump on Monday offered to be the "mediator" between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue as he met Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House where the two leaders discussed a host of issues, including the Afghan peace process.

IMAGE: US President Donald Trump with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House. Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

The Indian government has denied US President Trump's astonishing claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate.

 

"We have seen @POTUS's remarks to the press that he is ready to mediate, if requested by India & Pakistan, on Kashmir issue. No such request has been made by PM @narendramodi to US President," ministry of external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

"It has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally. Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross border terrorism. The Shimla Agreement & the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India & Pakistan bilaterally," he said.

IMAGE: The MEA statement categorically stating that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not asked Trump to mediate on Kashmir. Photograph: @MEAIndia/Twitter

Trump, who is known to make inaccurate statements, claimed that Prime Minister Modi asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue.

"If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. If I can do anything to help, let me know," Trump said in response to a question.

Trump said that he is ready to help, if the two countries ask for it.

India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the air force base at Pathankot in January of 2016 by Pakistan-based terrorists, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.

Trump claimed that Modi and he discussed the issue of Kashmir in Osaka, Japan on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit last month, where the Indian prime minister made an offer of a third-party arbitration on Kashmir.

WATCH: Trump drops Kashmir bombshell

 

 

"I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject (Kashmir). And he actually said, 'would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?' I said, 'where?' (Modi said) 'Kashmir'," Trump said as he held talks with Khan for the first time since the latter came to power in August, 2018.

"Because this has been going on for many, many years. I am surprised that how long. It has been going on (for long)," he said, with Khan responding 70 years.

"I think they (Indians) would like to see it resolved. I think you would like to see it resolved. And if I can help, I would love to be a mediator. It should be....we have two incredible countries that are very, very smart with very smart leadership, (and they) can't solve a problem like that. But if you would want me to mediate or arbitrate, I would be willing to do that," Trump said.

"So all those issues should be resolved. So, he (Modi) has to ask me the same thing. So maybe we'll speak to him. Or I'll speak to him and we'll see if we can do something," Trump said.

"We have a very good relationship with India. I know that your relationship (with India) is strained a little bit, maybe a lot. But we will be talking about India… (it's) a big part of our conversation today and I think maybe we can help intercede and do whatever we have to do. It's something that can be brought back together. We will be talking about India and Afghanistan both," Trump told Khan.

Khan, who was sitting by Trump's side in the Oval Office of the White House, said that he is ready and welcomed such a move by the US.

"Right now, you would have the prayers of over a billion people if you can mediate (on Kashmir)," Khan told Trump.

Trump said he has heard so much about Kashmir, which is supposed to be a beautiful part of the world. "But right now there's just bombs all over the place. They say 'wherever you go, you have bombs'. It's a terrible situation."

"From my point, I can tell you we have tried our best. We made all overtures to India to start dialogue, resolve our differences through dialogue, but unfortunately we haven't made headways as yet. But I'm hoping that President Trump would push this process," Khan said, adding he feels that "only the most powerful state, headed by President Trump, can bring the two countries together."

IMAGE: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that if Trump did mediate on Kashmir he would have the prayers of a billion people. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Responding to a question on Pakistani allegation of Indian interference in Balochistan, Trump said, "I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister Modi. I think we're going to have a phenomenal relationship" with the prime minister of Pakistan.

"I do think that it's a two-way street. You know, you say 'India is coming in and destabilising Pakistan'. India, saying that 'Pakistan is coming in (to)destabilise it'. So there's a lot of room right there where we could meet."

Early this year, tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Kashmir's Pulwama district.

Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26.

The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured Indian pilot, who was handed over to India on March 1.

During his visit, Khan was accompanied by Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi among others.
Trump also noted that the US is working with Pakistan to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

The Trump administration has intensified its efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of America's longest war in Afghanistan where the US has lost over 2,400 soldiers since late 2001, when it invaded the country after the 9/11 terror attacks. 

Kashmir a bilateral issue between India, Pak; US welcomes them sitting down: State Dept

The Trump administration has launched a damage control exercise after the US president's remarks about mediation on Kashmir, with the State Department on Tuesday saying it was a "bilateral" issue between India and Pakistan, and the US "welcomes" the two countries "sitting down" for talks.

It also said Pakistan taking "sustained and irreversible" steps against terrorism is key to a successful dialogue with India.

"While Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss, the Trump administration welcomes Pakistan and India sitting down and the United States stands ready to assist," a State Department spokesperson told PTI in response to a question if Trump's remarks reflect a change in the country's policy on Kashmir.

India has already rejected Trump's claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought his mediation on the Kashmir issue.

For more than a decade, the US has consistently insisted that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and it is for the two countries to decide on the nature and scope of the dialogue.

"We believe the foundation for any successful dialogue between India and Pakistan is based on Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists on its territory. These actions are in line with Prime Minister (Imran) Khan's stated commitments, and Pakistan's international obligations," the State Department spokesperson said.

"We will continue to support efforts that reduce tensions and create an environment conducive for dialogue. This first and foremost means tackling the menace of terrorism. As the President indicated, we stand ready to assist," the spokesperson said in response to a question.

Lalit K Jha
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