Narendra Modi asked to step in as India erupts in fury over Donald Trump’s Kashmir mediation claims
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing demands to address a claim by the US president that he had asked Washington to mediate in the long-running dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir
- The issue is a sore point for India, which has for years championed a bilateral approach, while Pakistan favours third-party mediation
Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar was forced to issue a strenuous denial in the upper house of Parliament, saying Modi made no such request to Trump as the US president had claimed.
“I’d like to categorically assure the house that no such request was made by the prime minister to the US president,” Jaishankar told the Indian parliament, barely able to make his voice heard over the opposition tumult.
The US president’s comments touched on one of the most sensitive topics for New Delhi.
While Pakistan has often sought third-party mediation in the decades-old dispute which has cost tens of thousands of lives, the idea is anathema to India, which has always insisted the issue can only be resolved bilaterally.
Members in both houses of parliament demanded that Modi make a statement on the issue. Opposition leaders Anand Sharma and D. Raja said it was a serious matter.
Khan – on an official visit to the US – stirred the controversy further by saying Kashmir could only be resolved with outside help.
“Bilaterally, there will never be (an end to the Kashmir conflict),” Khan told Fox News, adding that Pakistan and India were “poles apart”.
“I really feel that India should come ... (to) the table. The US could play a big part, President Trump certainly can play a big part,” he said. “I can tell you right now Mr President, you will have the prayers of over a billion people if you can mediate and resolve this issue.”
Kashmir separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said he would support any effort to end the conflict in the region in which tens of thousands have been killed, and the people of Kashmir would welcome Trump’s intervention.
Some US politicians quickly distanced themselves from Trump’s comments.
Brad Sherman, a Democratic Congressman and member of the House foreign affairs committee, said he apologised to the Indian ambassador in Washington for Trump’s statement.
“Everyone knows PM Modi would never suggest such a thing. Trump’s statement is amateurish and delusional. And embarrassing,” he tweeted.
The US State Department also sought to calm the storm.
“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,” tweeted Alice Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.
The Democratic chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, spoke to the Indian ambassador to say there was no change in the US position on Kashmir, the committee said on Twitter.
“Engel reiterated his support for the longstanding U.S. position on the Kashmir dispute, saying he supported dialogue between India & Pakistan, but the dialogue’s pace & scope can only be determined by India & Pakistan.”
He also said that Pakistan must “dismantle the terrorist infrastructure” for any meaningful dialogue with India.
They have fought two wars over the region and tens of thousands, mainly civilians, have died since an insurgency erupted three decades ago in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Pakistan denies Indian accusations that it gives material help to the militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir for nearly three decades, but says it gives moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.
Tension between India and Pakistan has been high since an attack on an Indian military convoy in Kashmir in February claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group prompted India to send warplanes into Pakistan.
Pakistan retaliated by ordering its jets into India’s side of Kashmir the following day, raising the prospect of a wider conflict.