Opposition parties on Monday asked the Centre to clarify if it had changed its position on not involving third parties in the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan, PTI reported. This came hours after United States President Donald Trump claimed Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate in the conflict. Trump made the comment while talking to reporters after his meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in the White House.
The Ministry of External Affairs denied Trump’s claim, saying no such request was made. “It has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally,” ministry spokesperson Raveesh 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 Opposition lashed out at the Centre and Trump. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said Trump had no idea what he was talking about. “He has either not been briefed or not understood what [Prime Minister] Modi was saying or what India’s position is on third party mediation,” he tweeted. “That said, Ministry of External Affairs should clarify that Delhi has never sought his intercession.”
However, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah said it was a “matter of happiness” that Modi spoke to Trump about the Kashmir matter. “It is a matter of happiness that when PM Modi talked to Trump he had told him that Kashmir issue is complex and if there can be some help it would be good,” he was quoted as saying by ANI. “I congratulate Modi ji, he too wants to use everything to solve this issue that is creating tensions between India and Pakistan.”
His son and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah wondered whether there had been a change in the stand on third parties getting involved in the conflict, and asked if India would call Trump “a liar”. “Personally I think Donald Trump is talking out of his hat when he says the prime minister asked for United States involvement in solving the Kashmir issue but I’d like to see Ministry of External Affairs call Trump out on his claim,” he said.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury took a dig at Modi, asking if “our Twitter-friendly” prime minister would have the courage to rebut Trump’s statements. “What does this say about our long-held position of sovereignty over the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, as defined in the Simla Agreement?” he asked. “Will our twitter-friendly PM have the courage to rebut the US President who has made a public statement?” He added that India had always maintained that Kashmir was a bilateral matter with “no scope for third party interference”.
The White House on Monday released a transcription of the remarks between Trump and Khan. “Now, ‘Whitehouse’ puts up President of the United States assertion in ‘black and white’ that PM Modi asked him to ‘mediate on Kashmir’!” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted. “When will our PM ‘wake up’ and call the bluff if President Trump is lying? Or, Did PM Modi ask United States president to mediate?”
Meanwhile, former diplomats said Trump’s comments would damage relations between the two countries. “The president did a lot of damage today,” PTI quoted former United States Ambassador to India Richard Verma as saying. “His comments on Kashmir and Afghanistan were way off the mark.”
Hussain Haqqani, a former Pakistan Ambassador to the United States, said the US president would soon come to know of the complexity of South Asian matters.
“President Trump wants Pakistan’s help with a deal on Afghanistan and has dangled the prospect of help with what he thinks Pakistan wants,” he said. “He praised Imran Khan like he praised North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. This is his standard procedure in trying to get a deal. Just as he has not got a deal on the Korean peninsula, he will soon learn that South Asia’s historical issues are also more complex than fashioning a real estate deal.”
Former State Department diplomat Alyssa Ayres said Trump was not prepared for the meeting, PTI reported. “I am worried about the president’s lack of preparation for his meetings, and his impromptu statements,” Ayres said. “His statement on Kashmir today was categorically denied by the Indian government within hours. Diplomacy requires careful attention to detail, to language, and to the facts of history. We did not see that today.”
Nicholas Burns, who served as under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the George Bush Administration and played a key role in the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, said the Indian government had consistently rejected US’ moves to mediate the Kashmir dispute.