NEW YORK – Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday made it clear that India wants “certain concrete steps” from Pakistan before resumption of talks during his meeting with US President Donald Trump who hoped that the two neighbours can “work out something” on the Kashmir issue.
Prime Minister Modi and President Trump met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session here – their fourth meeting since Modi came to power for a second term in May this year.
Their 40-minute discussion mainly focussed on the bilateral trade and issues related to terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
During the meeting, the Prime Minister explained in detail the challenges India faces with regard to terrorism especially in Jammu and Kashmir.
He told President Trump that 42,000 lives have been lost in the last 30 years due to terrorism in Kashmir and sought the support from the international community to fight the scourge of terrorism, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters while briefing them about the meeting.
“We expect that overtures the Prime Minister has made over the years ought to have been reciprocated and none of them have been reciprocated, beginning with Prime Minister’s invitation of the oath taking ceremony and then as Prime Minister said his unique trip to Lahore in December 2015 with minimum security,” Gokhale said.
He added that Prime Minister Modi explained to President Trump that immediately after his visit to Lahore, there was an attack on the Pathankot Airbase and the perpetrators of the crime have not been brought to justice.
“The Prime Minister has made it clear that we are not shying away from talks with Pakistan. But for that to happen, we expect some concrete steps to be taken by Pakistan. And we do not find any effort by Pakistan taking those steps,” Gokhale said.
Prime Minister Modi put forward India’s perspective on the issue of terrorism and President Trump showed understanding,” Gokhale said, adding that the US leader also recognised and accepted that this is a challenge that both the countries face.
The Prime Minister noted that among the significant number of foreign fighters (in groups like Islamic State and Al-Qaeda) the level of participation from India is very low as he underlined that the country is home to world’s second largest Muslim population, Gokhale said, adding that he also told President Trump that there is lower level of radicalisation among them.
Earlier, Trump said it will be great if Prime Minister Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan can “work out something” on Kashmir, distancing himself from any mediation between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
“I really believe that Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Khan will get along when they get to know each other. I think a lot of good things will come from that meeting… It will be great if they can work out something on Kashmir,” Trump said in response to a volley of questions before the meeting.
His remarks came a day after he met Khan on Monday and once again offered to mediate between Pakistan and India on the Kashmir issue if both sides agree.
India maintains that the Kashmir issue is a bilateral one and no third party has any role in it.
Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after India abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. India’s action evoked strong reactions from Pakistan which downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian Ambassador.
Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.
New Delhi has also asked Islamabad to accept the reality and stop its anti-India rhetoric.
When asked what message he wanted to give Prime Minister Khan after he conceded that the Pakistani spy agency ISI had trained the al-Qaeda militants, Trump said, “the message is not for me to give…It is for Prime Minister Modi to give, and he gave it loud and clear.
I am sure he will take care of it”. “You have a great PM, he will solve all problem,” Trump said, responding to another question from an Indian journalist.
Trump also said his country will soon have a trade deal with India to boost economic ties between the two nations.
“We are doing very well … I think very soon we will have a trade deal,” Trump told reporters here when asked if there is any trade deal is expected in the talks between India and the US.
The two countries are negotiating a trade package to iron out issues and promote the two-way commerce.
“We have made significant progress on the issue,” Gokhale said, adding that “we expect a fair and reasonable deal” fairly soon.
The meeting between Trump and Modi comes two days after they met on Sunday in Houston and shared the stage at ‘Howdy, Modi’ gala event where they displayed a close friendship and a common vision on fighting terrorism.
Prime Minister Modi praised Trump as “a good friend of India” and expressed his happiness over the US President joining him at the ‘Howdy, Modi’ rally.
“I am thankful to Trump that he came to Houston. He is my friend but he is also a good friend of India,” Modi said.
“They love this gentleman to my right. People went crazy, he is like an American version of Elvis,” Trump said, referring to the ‘Howdy, Modi’ event.
Modi presented a framed photograph from the ‘Howdy, Modi’ event to President Trump, who thanked him for the gesture.