India denies Trump’s claim that it asked US to mediate in Kashmir conflict

India has strongly denied that Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Donald Trump to mediate in the longstanding conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir.

“I’d like to assure the house that no such request was made by the PM to the US President,” India’s foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told the Indian parliament on Tuesday, barely audible over the massive uproar by incensed Opposition members on the issue.

He reiterated India’s decades old stance that the Kashmir conflict could only be resolved bilaterally with Pakistan and no third party involvement was acceptable. Kashmir is divided between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, but claimed in its entirety by both.

Agitated Opposition MP’s, however, refused to be mollified, and demanded that Modi personally make a statement in parliament to confirm that he had not asked Trump to mediate in the 72-year old Kashmir imbroglio.

Senior Opposition Congress Party MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted that Trump did not have the ‘slightest idea of what he was talking about’ and that he had either not been briefed or not understood what Modi was saying.

According to a White House transcript Mr Trump told reporters after his meeting with Khan that Mr Modi had asked him a fortnight ago whether he would like to be a mediatorCredit:
 Michael Reynolds/EPA

Trump’s claim that he had been asked by Mr Modi to arbitrate the Kashmir dispute came as he hosted Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House on Monday.

According to a White House transcript Mr Trump told reporters after his meeting with Khan that Mr Modi had asked him a fortnight ago whether he would like to be a mediator or arbitrator in Kashmir as the dispute had been raging for years.

“If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Mr Trump declared.  

Mr Khan who is on an official visit to the US further stoked the controversy by declaring that "only the most powerful state" headed by President Trump can bring the neighbours together to resolve Kashmir.

Bilaterally India and Pakistan will never be able to end the Kashmir dispute as they are poles apart, Mr Khan told Fox News.

Pakistan has always welcomed outside mediation over Kashmir and over years has tried to involve other countries like the US in the dispute, but has met with stiff resistance from India.

The US State Department too endeavoured to diplomatically calm things down.

“While Kashmir is a bilateral situation for both parties to discuss, the Trump administration welcomes Pakistan and India sitting down and the US stand ready to assist” tweeted Alice Wells from the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.  

Senior US politicians also distanced themselves from Trump’s remarks with Brad Sherman, a Democratic Coingressman and member of the House foreign affairs committee saying that he had apologised to the Indian ambassador in Washington for the US Presidents remarks.

“Everyone knows PM Modi would never suggest such a thing” he tweeted. Trump’s statement is amateurish and delusional and embarrassing he added.   

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India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Kashmir, after Pakistan seized a third of the Himalayan principality after it opted to remain independent.

The two also fought an 11-week long military skirmish in 1999 in Kashmir’s mountainous Kargil region in which 1,200 soldiers died on both sides.

India also blames Pakistan for fuelling Kashmir’s 30-year old Muslim insurgency for an independent homeland in which over 70,000 people had died.

Pakistan denies these allegations, saying it only provides Kashmiri separatists’ moral and diplomatic support for their cause. 

The air forces of the two sides were locked in a faceoff in February after India held Pakistan responsible for the killing of over 40 of its paramilitaries in a suicide bombing in Kashmir.

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