The Ministry of External Affairs on Monday denied United States President Donald Trump’s claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had requested him to mediate in the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.

Trump, speaking to reporters after meeting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in the White House, said: “I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject and he actually said ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?’ I said: ‘Where?’ He said: ‘Kashmir’. Because this has been going on for many many years. I was surprised how long it has been going on.”

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said Modi had made no such request. “It has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally,” Kumar said. “Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross-border terrorism. The Shimla Agreement [and] the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India [and] Pakistan bilaterally.”

The US State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs said Kashmir was a “bilateral issue” for India and Pakistan to discuss, but added that the US was ready to assist the two countries. “...the Trump administration welcomes Pakistan and India sitting down and the United States stands ready to assist,” said the bureau’s Acting Assistant Secretary Alice Wells.

An unidentified State Department spokesperson told ANI that Pakistan should take sustained and irreversible steps against terrorists in its territory to enable a successful dialogue between India and Pakistan. “These actions are in line with PM Khan’s stated commitments and Pakistan’s international obligations,” the spokesperson added. “We will continue to support efforts that reduce tensions and create an environment conducive for dialogue. This first and foremost means tackling the menace of terrorism. As the president indicated, we stand ready to assist.”

US Congressman calls Trump’s remarks ‘delusional, amateurish’

Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman said Trump’s statement was delusional. “I just apologised to Indian Ambassador Harsh Shringla for Trump’s amateurish and embarrassing mistake,” Sherman tweeted. “Everyone who knows anything about foreign policy in South Asia knows that India consistently opposes third-party mediation regarding Kashmir. Everyone knows PM Modi would never suggest such a thing. Trump’s statement is amateurish and delusional. And embarrassing.”

Sherman and Congressman George Holding, who are co-chairs of Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, issued a joint statement saying Kashmir was a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan. “Consistent with decades of US policy, we believe the dispute over Kashmir must be resolved bilaterally by India and Pakistan,” the joint statement said. “The Republic of India is one of America’s closest and most important allies, and we look forward to working with Prime Minister Modi and Indian officials to combat terrorism and extremism throughout the region.”

Congressman Eliot L Engel, chairperson of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, also spoke to Shringla following Trump’s remarks. “Engel reiterated his support for the longstanding US position on the Kashmir dispute, saying he supported dialogue between India [and] Pakistan, but the dialogue’s pace [and] scope can only be determined by India [and] Pakistan,” the House Committee on Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

According to the statement, Engel “reaffirmed that in order for dialogue to be meaningful, Pakistan must first take concrete and irreversible steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistan’s soil”.