India’s foreign minister issued a strenuous denial to an infuriated opposition in parliament on Tuesday, after US President Donald Trump said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited him to mediate in the bloody conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir.
While Pakistan has often sought third-party mediation in the decades-old dispute which has cost tens of thousands of lives, the idea is anathema to India, which has always insisted the issue can only be resolved bilaterally.
Trump set off a political storm in India by claiming during a meeting in Washington on Monday with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan that Modi had asked him two weeks ago to mediate in the Kashmir dispute.
“I’d like to categorically assure the house that no such request was made by the prime minister to the US president,” Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar told the Indian parliament, barely able to make his voice heard over the opposition tumult.
Jaishankar insisted the conflict could only be settled bilaterally and that Pakistan had to end “cross-border terrorism” before any talks.
Trump’s comments touched on one of the most sensitive topics for New Delhi.
India has disputed Kashmir with its neighbour since their independence in 1947. Both control parts of the former Himalayan kingdom, but claim it in its entirety.
They have fought two wars over the region and tens of thousands, mainly civilians, have died since an insurgency erupted three decades ago in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Tensions rose Tuesday across the line of control — the de facto border dividing Kashmir — as firing broke out, violating a ceasefire between the two sides.
Raja Akmal, a senior police official in Pakistani Kashmir, told AFP a 70-year-old woman was killed after she was hit by a mortar shell.
Another government official said two people were wounded in “heavy shelling” on the line of control, “which was targeting civilian population”.
Earlier Tuesday Indian officials had blamed Pakistan for the resumption of border firing.