WASHINGTON: United States President Donald Trump has reiterated his offer to mediate the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India, telling reporters he is willing to intervene but a decision would be up to the leaders of both the countries.
Last month, Trump, while talking to the media alongside Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House, had said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently asked him whether he would like to be a mediator or arbitrator on Kashmir — something New Delhi immediately denied.
Trump, when questioned on Thursday by a reporter regarding India’s rejection of third-party mediation, asked: “Have they accepted the offer or not?” When told no, he said: “It is really up to Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi.”
“I met Prime Minister [Imran] Khan, I got along great with [the premier]. I think they are fantastic people — Khan and Modi — I mean, I would imagine they could get along very well,” he added. “But if they wanted somebody to intervene, to help them […] and I spoke with Pakistan about that and I spoke frankly in India about it […] that battle has been going on for a long time.” “If I can, if they wanted me to, I would certainly intervene,” Trump said.
India’s foreign minister said he told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that any discussion of the disputed Himalayan region would be between India and Pakistan only. The two men met on Friday on the sidelines of an Asian security forum in Bangkok. India has long refused outside attempts to resolve the conflict while Pakistan has sought international help.
“Have conveyed to American counterpart @SecPompeo this morning in clear terms that any discussion on Kashmir, if at all warranted, will only be with Pakistan and only bilaterally,” Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar said in a tweet. He said he and Pompeo had wide-ranging discussions on regional issues.
In a brief statement about the meeting, the State Department did not mention Kashmir or the mediation offer. It said Pompeo and Jaishankar “discussed our shared commitment to upholding the rule of law, freedom of navigation, and democratic values in the Indo-Pacific region”.
Earlier on Thursday, a senior State Department official said Trump’s offer to help resolve the Kashmir dispute should be seen against the backdrop of the US desire to help improve relations between India and Pakistan.
Briefing the media on Prime Minister Imran’s visit to Washington last week, the official reiterated the US offer to help India and Pakistan resolve the 70-year old dispute, if asked by both.
“We recognise that Kashmir has been a bilateral issue but there are opportunities as Pakistan takes steps that build confidence in its own efforts to counter terrorism [and] ultimately towards a constructive dialogue. We stand ready to assist if asked by the parties to do so,” the senior State Department official added.
At a joint news conference with Prime Minister Imran at the White House on July 22, President Trump said he was willing to mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue if the two neighbours asked him to do so.
“If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. If I can do anything to help, let me know,” Trump had said while responding to a question from a Pakistani journalist. “I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject [Kashmir]. And he, actually, said, would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator? I said, where? [Modi said] Kashmir,” Trump explained.
The statement caused a political storm in India where opposition parties called Modi’s reported request to the US president an act of treason and asked him to explain why he made such a move. The Indian government denied ever asking Trump to mediate on Kashmir, adding that India retains its traditional position that it will not accept any third-party mediation on its disputes with Pakistan.
On July 24, President Trump’s Chief Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow rejected the suggestion that his boss had “made up” the claim that the Indian PM had asked him to mediate on Kashmir. “The president does not make anything up. That’s a very rude question in my opinion,” he told a reporter at a White House briefing.
At Wednesday’s State Department briefing, the senior US official backed Trump’s offer but said a follow-up would depend on the steps that Pakistan now takes to eradicate terrorism from the region. The visit, the official said, was a chance for the prime minister to discuss how his government would bring his vision about and for both sides to confer on how the US could support Pakistan in this endeavour.