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February 23, 2020

Trump to raise Kashmir issue, religious freedom with Modi

Top Story

February 23, 2020

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump will raise the issue of Kashmir and religious freedom in India during his meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi next week.

President Trump will be in India for two days along with this 12-member official delegation. Both countries are expected to talk about cooperation in key areas focusing on economics and energy. Besides this, President Trump will also raise serious issues like Kashmir, traditions of democracy and religious freedom, according to a senior administration official.

"I think what you will hear from the president is very much encouraging a reduction in tensions between Pakistan and India, encouraging the two countries to engage in bilateral dialogue with each other to resolve their differences," the official told media on Friday.

Pakistan has long been asking the Modi government in India to restart a dialogue to discuss and resolve issues long pending between the two countries. India had not been forthcoming on the offer.

Responding to a question about President Trump's offer to mediate on the Kashmir issue, the official said that the administration continues to "believe a core foundation of any successful dialogue between the two is based on continued momentum in Pakistan's efforts to crack down on terrorists and extremists on its territory."

The official added that President Trump would urge both countries to seek to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control (LoC) and refrain from actions or statements that could increase tensions in the region.

Last year in August, Modi's government withdrew the special autonomy given to the territory of Jammu and Kashmir and in the process clamped down on opponents and imposed all sorts of communications blockade. Since then, the Indian government faced protests at home and criticism abroad. The US Congress held several Congressional hearings to learn more about Indian atrocities in Kashmir. Months later, the Indian government also enacted a citizenship law that has been regarded discriminating against Muslims.

Keeping that in consideration, President Trump would raise such issues with Modi, "particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration." The president will note that the world is looking to India to continue to uphold its democratic traditions, respect for religious minorities, the official said.

The trade and economic relationship with India is critically important to the US, and also access to the US market is critical to the Indian government. "The concerns that led to the revocation, suspension of India's GSP access remains a concern for us," the official said, adding, "It was really the failure of the Indian government to provide equitable and reasonable access to its markets in numerous sectors."

"We continue to talk to our Indian colleagues about addressing these market access barriers. Our trade teams led by US trade representative have been in touch with their counterparts over the past several weeks," the official said.