Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said he was surprised by India’s reaction to President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate in the Kashmir dispute. Earlier in the day, Khan had said the Kashmir conflict can never be resolved bilaterally, hours after Trump claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had requested him to mediate in the dispute, Fox News reported. Khan said the United States “could play a big part” in the resolution of the conflict.
“Surprised by reaction of India to Pres Trump’s offer of mediation to bring Pak & India to dialogue table for resolving Kashmir conflict which has held subcontinent hostage for 70 yrs,” Khan said in a tweet. He added that generations of people in Kashmir have suffered and continue to suffer everyday so the conflict needed a resolution.
“There was one point when there was General [Pervez] Musharraf and Prime Minister [Atal Bihari] Vajpayee of India when we did get close to the resolution of the Kashmiri issue,” Khan told Fox News earlier. “But since then we are poles apart and I really feel that India should come on the table. President Trump certainly can play a big part.”
The Pakistan prime minister, who is on a three-day visit to the United States, said the dispute involved 1.3 billion people. “Also I think there’s a realisation in the subcontinent and there was some incident that happened last February and we again had tension at the border,” Khan added. “An Indian plane was shot down in Pakistan. So there’s a realisation and that’s why I asked President [Donald] Trump if he could play his role, the United States is the most powerful country in the world, the only country that could mediate between Pakistan and India and the only issue is Kashmir.”
Khan claimed the conflict in Kashmir was the only reason India and Pakistan had not been able to live like “civilised neighbours” for 70 years. The prime minister also spoke about giving up nuclear weapons if India did the same. “Because nuclear war is not an option,” Fox News quoted him as saying. “And between Pakistan and India, the idea of nuclear war is actually self-destruction, because we have two and a half thousand-mile border.”
On Monday, Trump offered to mediate between the two countries and claimed that Narendra Modi had asked him to do so during one of their recent meetings. “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,” he said.
However, the Ministry of External Affairs denied Trump’s claim, saying no such request had been made. Opposition leaders and former diplomats have expressed concern about Trump’s claims too. While political party leaders criticised Trump for not being aware of the dispute, former bureaucrats said it could lead to a strain in relations between India and the United States.