U.S. President Donald Trump(REUTERS)
U.S. President Donald Trump(REUTERS)

Trump repeats his proposal to mediate on Kashmir issue

Trump’s offer, made during an interaction with reporters at the White House on Thursday, was virtually a repeat of his remarks during a news conference with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on July 22.
By Yashwant Raj and Rezaul H Laskar
PUBLISHED ON AUG 02, 2019 11:44 PM IST

US President Donald Trump reiterated his offer to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute only to have it declined on Friday by external affairs minister S Jaishankar, who said the issue could only be handled bilaterally.

Trump’s offer, made during an interaction with reporters at the White House on Thursday, was virtually a repeat of his remarks during a news conference with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on July 22. However, he qualified the offer by saying he would intervene if India and Pakistan sought his mediation.

Asked about the matter by a reporter, Trump seemed to be unaware that his earlier offer had been swiftly rejected by India. “Have they accepted the offer or not? Well...it’s really up to Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, and I met with Prime Minister (Imran) Khan, I got along great with (Khan),” he said.

“I think they’re fantastic people – Khan and Modi – I mean, I would imagine that they could get along very well. But if they wanted somebody to intervene or to help them, and I spoke with Pakistan about that, and I spoke frankly in India about it...If I can, if they wanted me to, I would certainly intervene (sic),” he said, adding the “battle” for Kashmir had been going on for a long time.

The response from India, which has traditionally opposed third party mediation on Kashmir, came hours later. Soon after a meeting with US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on the margins of the East Asia Summit in Bangkok, external affairs minister Jaishankar said he had made it clear that the Kashmir issue could only be discussed by India and Pakistan.

“Have conveyed to American counterpart @SecPompeo this morning in clear terms that any discussion on Kashmir, if at all warranted, will only be with Pakistan and only bilaterally,” Jaishankar tweeted.

There was no official statement from the Indian side on the meeting and a readout from the US state department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus made no mention of the Kashmir issue. Ortagus said Jaishankar and Pompeo had “reaffirmed the positive trajectory of the US-India strategic partnership” and discussed the “shared commitment to upholding the rule of law, freedom of navigation and democratic values in the Indo-Pacific”.

A response was awaited from the White House to a request for why Trump had repeated the offer despite India’s rejection, and if he did not know of New Delhi’s response.

Trump had stunned India by claiming at the July 22 meeting with Khan that Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue. Trump’s remarks appeared to suggest that Modi had made the request when they met on the margins of the G20 Summit in Osaka in June.

Subsequently, Jaishankar told Parliament that no such request had been made and that the Kashmir issue could only be handled bilaterally in line with the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.

The US side too rolled back Trump’s unexpected offer, with acting assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, Alice Wells, saying Kashmir should be tackled bilaterally by India and Pakistan though the US is “ready to assist”. People familiar with developments said the US side had also checked its records of the Trump-Modi meeting in Osaka and verified there was “no mention of Kashmir” in the discussions.

Despite India’s rejection of Trump’s offer, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday urged the US to use its influence to persuade India to start talks on the Kashmir issue. He contended India was avoiding talks and did not appear willing to negotiate on the issue.

“India insists it is a bilateral matter but it is not even willing to come to the table for talks,” Qureshi told Geo News channel. “India won’t agree easily to the Kashmir talks. (We urge) the US to exercise its influence and persuade India.”

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