Trump’s Kashmir comments trigger political firestorm; Parl disrupted

Oppn demands Modi’s clarification
No mediation request made by PM: EAM

NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON, July 23:  A massive political firestorm broke out today over Donald Trump’s stunning claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir dispute with the Opposition demanding a clarification from Modi even as the Government asserted that no such request was made to the US President and all issues with Pakistan will have to be resolved bilaterally.
The issue rocked both Houses of Parliament with the opposition, led by Congress, demanding that the Prime Minister himself should clarify since Trump’s comments were “serious”.

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Ahead of talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in White House on Monday, Trump told reporters that Modi had asked him during a meeting on the sidelines of G-20 summit in Osaka last month to mediate on the Kashmir issue.
The External Affairs Ministry was quick to deny Trump’s startling claim on Monday while strongly reiterating India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan will have to be discussed bilaterally, including the Kashmir issue.
As the opposition mounted a concerted attack on the Modi Government, both inside and outside Parliament, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in Rajya Sabha that Modi had never made any such request to Trump.
“Any engagement with Pakistan will require an end to cross border terrorism,” he asserted, adding that the Shimla and Lahore accords signed between India and Pakistan provide the basis for resolution of all issues bilaterally.
Not satisfied with the Jaishankar’s statement, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that a “weak” Foreign Ministry denial wouldn’t do and Modi must tell the nation what transpired in the meeting between him and the US president.
“President Trump says PM Modi asked him to mediate between India & Pakistan on Kashmir! If true, PM Modi has betrayed India’s interests & 1972 Shimla Agreement,” Gandhi tweeted.
Opposition leaders also held a meeting and sought an explanation from Modi in both the Houses on Trump’s statement. Various opposition leaders addressed a press conference on the issue.
Flanked by opposition leaders, including CPI’s D Raja, NCP’s Majeed Menon, DMK’s Tiruchi Siva, SP’s Ramgopal Yadav and AAP’s Sanjay Singh, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said his party was ready to believe the Prime Minister’s side of the story but he should clarify the issue on the floor of the House.
Attacking the Opposition, the BJP termed as “inappropriate” and “irresponsible” their demand and accused them of putting “politics above national interest”.
“The way Congress and some opposition parties have protested in Rajya Sabha and created a disorder just to demand the Prime Minister’s statement is condemnable… They are putting politics above national interest,” senior party leader Prakash Javadekar told reporters.
As Trump’s comments risked straining ties with New Delhi, the US State Department in Washington said Kashmir is a “bilateral” issue between India and Pakistan, and the US “welcomes” the two countries “sitting down” for talks.
“While Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss, the Trump administration welcomes Pakistan and India sitting down and the United States stands ready to assist,” a State Department spokesperson said.
Modi is slated to visit the US in September.
Hours after Trump’s remarks, influential Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman tweeted that he apologised to Indian envoy in the US Harsh Shringla for the President’s “amateurish and embarrassing mistake”.
With Imran Khan by his side, Trump said on Monday that Modi asked him to mediate to resolve the Kashmir issue.
“I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago, and we talked about this subject. And he actually said, ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?’ I said, ‘Where?’ He said, ‘Kashmir’,” according to transcript released by the White House.
Trump said he would love to be a mediator in resolving the dispute
“If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. If I can do anything to help, let me know,” Trump said in response to a question, adding he is ready to help, if the two countries ask for it.
Meanwhile, the Opposition, led by the Congress, on Tuesday demanded a clarification from Modi on Trump’s claim that the Indian leader had requested him to mediate on the Kashmir dispute.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar made a statement on the floor of both Houses of Parliament and strongly rejected Trump’s comment during a meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Washington.
Opposition parties were, however, not satisfied and wanted Modi to come to both the Houses and clarify.
The issue rocked the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha with frequent disruptions as Opposition members vociferously put forth their demand.
As soon as the Lower House met for the day, members from the Congress and some other Opposition parties were on their feet shouting slogans over the issue.
Later, when Zero Hour began, Congress’ Manish Tewari said the prime minister himself should clarify since Trump’s statement is serious.
Echoing him, AIADMK’s T R Baalu said Modi should personally make a statement since the issue involved him.
When Jaishankar rose to make a statement, it was drowned in protests by the entire opposition. The opposition then walked out of proceedings.
In the Upper House, too, there were heated exchanges between opposition benches and Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, who adjourned proceedings. The Rajya Sabha was repeatedly adjourned amid opposition uproar over Trump’s comment.
The Congress welcomed the Government’s reiteration of India’s ‘no third party involvement’ stand on the Kashmir issue but asked why Modi was “mum” over Trump’s claim.
The US President’s remarks “relate to a meeting between him and PM Modi, wherein our PM had asked him to mediate”, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a tweet.
“Why is PM ‘mum’ on what transpired between the two heads of states, more so when it affects our sovereignty?” Surjewala asked.
A day after he said that he does not think Trump had “the slightest idea” of what he was talking about when he made the claim, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor remarked, “I did not say the PM didn’t need to explain himself to Parliament, of which he is a member & to which he is accountable”.
“On the contrary, while I’m prepared to believe it’s impossible our PM could say this, he needs to clarify it himself in Parliament, since Trump cited him personally,” the former Minister of State for External Affairs said.
The Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien said his party wants the Prime Minister to make a statement on the issue to clear the air.
“Along with all opposition parties, we, Trinamool, have a simple demand. The PM of India has to come to Parliament, make a statement and clear the air,” he said.
PDP president and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said Trump’s “disclosure” on third party mediation on Kashmir is a “huge policy shift” and India and Pakistan must seize the opportunity to forge peace through dialogue.
Trump claims that Modi asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue when they met in Osaka, Japan, on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit last month.
“If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. If I can do anything to help, let me know,” Trump said in response to a question, adding he is ready to help, if the two countries ask for it.
“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 said.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah wondered whether the Indian Government will call the US President a liar or whether there has been a shift in India’s position on third party involvement in dispute.
“Personally I think @realDonaldTrump is talking out of his hat when he says @PMOIndia asked for US involvement in solving the Kashmir issue but I’d like to see @MEAIndia call Trump out on his claim,” Abdullah tweeted. (PTI)