New Delhi: Amid chaos in parliament over US President Donald Trump’s stunning claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to “mediate” on Kashmir, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said he wanted to “categorically assure the house” that no such request had been made by PM Modi to the American president.
“I would like to put it on record in the House (Rajya Sabha) that no such request (on Kashmir) was made by the prime minister to the president of the United States. All issues with Pakistan has and will remain bilateral between India and Pakistan,” the Foreign Minister said in the Rajya Sabha.
Opposition parties in both houses aggressively demanded that PM Modi himself clarify on Trump’s comment.
“This is a very serious issue and we respect the fact that this is an issue of national importance. We all agree that India has maintained that all issues with Pakistan will be dealt only bilaterally, but since this is a very serious allegation, which the head of state of the United States – the President – made about the head of state of India – our prime minister – we would expect the prime minister to come to the House and give a statement himself. We want him to respond,” said Congress lawmaker Anand Sharma.
As the opposition continued to protest, Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu, the Vice President, briefly adjourned the house.
India has strongly rejected Trump’s claim and even the US State Department, in a clarification, said while Kashmir is a bilateral issue, “the Trump administration welcomes Pakistan and India sitting down and the United States stands ready to assist”.
On Monday, with Imran Khan by his side, President Trump said: “I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago, and we talked about the subject. And he actually said, ‘would you like to be a mediator, or arbitrator’, and I said ‘where?’, and he said ‘Kashmir’, because this has been going on for many, many years. I was surprised for how long it has been going on,” to which Imran Khan interjected to say, “70 years”.
“I think they would like to see it resolved. I think you would like to see it resolved and if I can help, I would love to be a mediator. It is impossible to believe that two incredible countries that are very, very smart and very smart leadership can’t resolve it… but if you want me to mediate or arbitrate, I would be willing to do it,” the US President said.
A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in tweets: “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. The Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India and Pakistan bilaterally.”
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala has questioned what he called the Prime Minister’s silence. “Reiteration of time-tested line on no mediation on Kashmir is welcome. POTUS (Donald Trump) remarks relate to a meeting between him and Prime Minister Modi, wherein our Prime Minister had asked him to mediate. Why is Prime Minister mum on what transpired between the two heads of states, more so when it affects our sovereignty?” he asked.
Congress parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor, however, blamed Trump over the row, saying he “doesn’t know what he is saying” and “it looks like he wasn’t briefed properly.”
Mr Tharoor added it was “impossible that PM Modi can ask such a thing, our policy has always been against mediation.”