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July 24, 2019

Trump’s mediation offer on Kashmir rocks India

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July 24, 2019

NEW DELHI: India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar Tuesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not request US mediation on the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan during his talks with President Donald Trump.

Trump’s remarks, made during his meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday, provoked an uproar in the Indian parliament and demands for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to respond.

“I would like to categorically assure the House that no such request has been made by Prime Minister Modi," Jaishankar said in a statement to the Rajya Sabha.

“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," Jaishankar said amid an uproar in the Upper House over a reported statement by Trump overnight, where the US president claimed Modi had asked him to intervene in the Kashmir dispute, reports the international media.

Rajya Sabha was adjourned till 2 pm following the uproar. Jaishankar made a similar statement in the Lok Sabha later in the day.

Similar scenes on the lines of Rajya Sabha were witnessed in the lower house too during the Zero Hour on Tuesday.

Two senior members of Lok Sabha -- Manish Tewari of Congress and Saugata Roy of Trinamool Congress -- spoke on the issue and demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should personally attend the House and respond to the developments.

A reference by Roy about Jaishankar drew sharp protests from the treasury benches which demand that the words be removed from official records. Both sides engaged in a fierce war of words and protests with most members standing and shouting slogans.

As soon as the EAM started speaking, the opposition members staged a walkout including those from Congress, Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham, Nationalist Congress Party among others. Jaishankar’s statement was inaudible over the din in the House and Speaker Om Birla allowed him to repeat it after the walkout.

Congress MP Anand Sharma said, "The entire country was shocked to hear Trump tell Imran Khan that PM Modi requested him at G20 to mediate in Kashmir."

"India speaks in one voice. Head of state of a powerful country's statement about the head of another country conveying something has serious consequences. The Shimla Accord is clear. I submit to you that PM must respect the House and come and tell Parliament," he added.

Speaking outside the Rajya Sabha, Congress MP Ghulam Nabi Azad said, "No matter which government was in power at Centre in past, our foreign policy has been that Kashmir is a bilateral issue and no third party can intervene and President Trump knows it. I don't think President Trump would tell Pakistan's PM that India's PM has asked the US to mediate."

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, meanwhile, said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi "must tell the nation what transpired" in his meeting with Donald Trump.

"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. A weak Foreign Ministry denial won't do. PM must tell the nation what transpired in the meeting between him and (Trump)," tweeted Rahul Gandhi, who resigned as Congress president last month.

During his first visit to Washington, PM Khan told Trump, “You will have the prayers of over a billion people if you can mediate or resolve this issue.”

Responding to Khan’s comments, Trump said he had a similar request from India.

“It is impossible to believe that two incredible countries who are very, very smart with very smart leadership can’t solve a problem like that,” Trump said.

“If you would want me to mediate or arbitrate, I would be willing to do it,” Trump said.

Following Trump’s remarks, the US State Department sought to calm the fallout.

Alice Wells, the acting assistant secretary of the department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, said, “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.”

Afghanistan demanded a clarification on Tuesday of President Trump’s comments that he could have had the country “wiped off the face of the earth” but did not “want to kill 10 million people.”

In a sharply worded statement, the government of President Ashraf Ghani noted that Afghanistan expected its relationship with the United States to be “grounded on common interests and mutual respect.”

In a statement on Tuesday, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai said the American president’s comments confirmed the suspicions of many Afghans that the United States had made “secret deals” with Pakistan to undermine Afghanistan’s sovereignty.

Karzai added that the United States “is not respecting our lives and human dignity at all.”

Former intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil said: “Your insulting message to [Afghanistan] is either accept the [Pakistani] proposal for peace or eventually you may have to use nukes.”

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