US President Donald Trump on Monday offered to help resolve the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan in initial remarks with visiting Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Trump said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a similar request when they met a few weeks ago — a claim that was rejected by India.
“If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Trump said, following up on Khan’s request during a joint appearance in the White House that he would like the United States to help resolve the Kashmir issue.
“I was with PM Modi two weeks ago and we talked about the subject. And he actually said, ‘would you like to be a mediator, or arbitrator? I said ‘where?’, and he said ‘Kashmir, because this has been going on for many many years’,” the President said.
The Indian external affairs ministry denied that PM Modi had made a request for Trump to play a role. “No such request has been made by PM @narendramodi to US President. It has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally. Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross border terrorism,” tweeted spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
The Pakistani leader had said in response to a question that he would be asking President Trump “to bring peace” to the sub-continent as it affects more than a billion, and only the most “powerful state headed by President Trump” can bring the two countries together because “we have done our best” to start the dialogue and resolve “our differences and “unfortunately we haven’t made headway as yet”.
India has long maintained that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, and no dialogue is possible as long as Islamabad continues to support cross-border terrorism.
Trump’s comments sparked off tweets from Opposition leaders who asked whether India had changed its position on third-party intervention in Kashmir.
“I honestly don’t think Trump has the slightest idea of what he’s talking about. He has either not been briefed or not understood what Modi was saying or what India’s position is on 3rd-party mediation. That said, MEA should clarify that Delhi has never sought his intercession,” said Congress leader Shashi Tharoor in a tweet before the MEA’s statement.
Pakistan has routinely brought up Kashmir and India in meetings with the United States in the past, seeking intervention and mediation. Khan’s pitch, to that extent, was not new. But previous presidents have resisted attempts to involve them, given India’s opposition to third-party mediation.
Trump and Khan were to hold delegation-level meetings after the opening remarks, during which Afghanistan and counter-terrorism would be the chief topics of discussion.
The US President also said that Pakistan was helping the United States “a lot” in Afghanistan, which is the key focus area of the meeting.
“Pakistan’s going to help us out to extricate ourselves,” the US president said. “We’re like policemen. We’re not fighting a war. If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people. … I have plans on Afghanistan where if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth.”
He also spoke of the suspension of the security aid for Pakistan, which he ordered in 2018 over Pakistan’s patchy counter-terrorism measures, and said relations were better between the two countries because of that.
“We paid $1.3 billion to Pakistan in aid for many years,” Trump said, “The problem was Pakistan wasn’t doing anything for us… I ended that a year-and-a-half ago… To be honest, I think we have a better relationship with Pakistan right now than when we were paying that money. That money can come back.”