External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday categorically 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, PTI reported. However, the Opposition insisted that Modi make a statement himself in Parliament.
“I would like to categorically state that no such request has been made by the Prime Minister to the US President,” Jaishankar told the Rajya Sabha. The minister reiterated that India had consistently held the position that all outstanding problems with Pakistan can be discussed only bilaterally. “Any engagement with Pakistan will require end to cross border terrorism,” Jaishankar said, adding that the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration would continue to be the basis to resolve disputes between the countries.
However, the Opposition members were not satisfied with Jaishankar’s response. The matter was raised in the Rajya Sabha by Congress member Anand Sharma and Communist Party of India leader D Raja. Raja sought to know if the government had changed its position on Kashmir, whereas Sharma said Modi should inform the House what he told Trump.
This led to heated exchange between Opposition benches and Upper House Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu. He insisted that the House should speak in one voice on national matters. The Rajya Sabha was initially adjourned till 12 pm and then till 2 pm, and again till 3 pm.
When the House resumed at 2 pm, Congress leader Anand Sharma requested the Deputy Chairman to consider notices given by him and other members of the Opposition seeking a reply from Modi in the House.
“There are certain traditions and dignity of the House,” Sharma said. “Whenever the prime minister goes out and whenever there is an international issue, the prime minister must reply. Let the prime minister come.”
“No one in the treasury bench has the guts to ask the Prime Minister to visit the House and respond to members,” Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad was quoted as saying by The Hindu. “That is why you have an office in the Parliament.”
The entire Opposition walked out in protest that the Prime Minister did not come to the House and asked him to respond in the matter.
Kashmir mediation raised in Lok Sabha
The matter was also discussed in the Lok Sabha, and saw the Congress and other Opposition parties raise slogans as soon as the House assembled.
Congress members were heard shouting “we want an answer” and the party’s leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury insisted that the prime minister should give an answer. Chowdhury also claimed that “India has bowed before the US,” The Hindu reported.
Speaker Om Birla said it was a serious matter and it should not be politicised. He urged members to rise above party lines and think about the nation.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the Opposition was trying to belittle the image of the country, and added that it was “highly unfair and uncalled for”.
Later, when the Zero Hour began, Senior Congress leader Manish Tewari said since the statement of Trump is serious, the prime minister himself should clarify.
Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy said Trump’s statement was in contravention to the position held by India. He also rejected any clarification by Jaishankar on the matter.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader TR Baalu also demanded that Modi should personally make a statement in the House.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah requested the Speaker to allow Jaishankar to repeat the statement as it was essential for people to hear him clearly.
On Monday, 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.”
The Ministry of External Affairs has refuted Trump’s claims. “It has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said hours after the US president’s remarks.