NEW DELHI Donald Trump’s stunning claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue triggered a massive political row on Tuesday even as the government stated that no such request was made to the US president and all issues will have to be resolved with Islamabad bilaterally.
The issue rocked both houses of Parliament with the Opposition demanding Modi’s statement on Trump’s remarks, holding that Kashmir is a bilateral issue and no third party can intervene.
As the opposition ramped up the attack on the government, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said in the Rajya Sabha that Modi had never made any such request to Trump and stressed that all outstanding issues with Pakistan can be discussed only bilaterally.
“Any engagement with Pakistan will require an end to cross border terrorism,” he said, adding that the Simla and Lahore accords signed between India and Pakistan provide the basis for resolution of all issues bilaterally.
The External Affairs Ministry made a similar statement on Monday night after Trump’s comments after he met Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House.
Not satisfied with the government’s statement, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said if Trump’s claim that Modi asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue is true, the PM had betrayed the interests of the country.
Gandhi also asserted that a “weak” foreign ministry denial wouldn’t do and Modi must tell the nation what transpired in the meeting between him and the US president.
“President Trump says PM Modi asked him to mediate between India & Pakistan on Kashmir! If true, PM Modi has betrayed India’s interests & 1972 Shimla Agreement,” the Congress leader said in a tweet.
In Washington, the State Department, in a damage control exercise, said Kashmir 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 are 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 Donald Trump’s remarks reflect a change in the country’s policy on Kashmir. However there was no suo-moto statement by the US state department.
In New Delhi, scores of senior opposition leaders slammed the government on the issue. “We demand PM’s clarification,” TMC MP Derek O’Brien said.
Trump claimed that Modi asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue when they met in Osaka, Japan, on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit last month.
“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, adding he is ready to help, if the two countries ask for it.
“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.
President Does Not Make Up Things: Trump’s Advisor
President Donald Trump “does not make up things”, a top presidential advisor said on Tuesday when asked about a question on his stunning claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue, remarks which has been strongly refuted by India.
It is “a very rude question,” Trump’s Chief Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow told reporters at the White House when a journalist following up on the president’s remarks asked if it was made up.
“The President does not make anything up. That’s a very rude question in my opinion. I am going to stay out of that. It’s outside of my lane. It’s for Mr (National Security Advisor John) Bolton, Mr (Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo and President, so I am not going to comment on that. President does not make things up,” Kudlow said.
A day earlier, Trump offered to be the “mediator” between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue as he met Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House.
Trump, who is known to make inaccurate statements, claimed that Prime Minister Modi asked him to mediate on Kashmir when they met in Osaka, Japan on the sidelines of the G20 Summit last month.
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.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar refuted that Prime Minister Modi ever made that request.
“I would like to categorically assure the House that no such request has been made by the Prime Minister to the US President. I repeat, no such request was made by the Prime Minister to the US President,” he said in a statement to the Parliament.