Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday demanded a clarification from Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself on whether he had sought United States President Donald Trump’s mediation in the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan. “A weak foreign ministry denial won’t do,” Gandhi tweeted soon after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar categorically denied Trump’s claim.
Gandhi said that if Trump was speaking the truth, Modi had “betrayed India’s interests” and the Simla Agreement of 1972. “PM must tell the nation what transpired in the meeting between him [and Trump],” the Congress MP added.
On Monday, while speaking to reporters after meeting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in the White House, Trump 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 refuted Trump’s claims late on Monday. “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.
On Tuesday, both Houses of Parliament discussed Trump’s claims, as Opposition leaders demanded further clarification from the government.
“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. He 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. They insisted that Modi must respond in Parliament.