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Posted at: Jul 23, 2019, 8:59 AM; last updated: Jul 23, 2019, 11:20 AM (IST)

State dept bid to cover up Trump’s remarks on Kashmir mediation

State dept bid to cover up Trump’s remarks on Kashmir mediation
Donald Trump. PTI file

Sandeep Dikshit
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 23

The US State Department has tried to paper over the damage caused by India refuting US President Donald Trump’s assertion that PM Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate in the Kashmir dispute.

“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,’’ said the US State Department. Significantly, the clarification of sorts was not hosted on the main Twitter handle but on the handle of its Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

Trump had kicked up a social media firestorm late on Monday by claiming that Modi had asked him to mediate on Kashmir.

New Delhi had responded immediately by rejecting his claim and reiterating that India’s long-held position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan should be discussed bilaterally. To South Block’s chagrin, Trump made the observations while interacting with the press along with visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House.

He went on to praise the Pakistanis as “smart, tough and great” and hoped Islamabad’s active cooperation with the US “will be a great help” in bringing peace in Afghanistan. India has been cut out of the Afghan talks after the US, Russia, Pakistan and China met earlier this month where they agreed to collectively work for a permanent ceasefire that starts with intra-Afghan dialogue.

A leading light of the India caucus group in the US House of Representatives Eliot Angel spoke to Indian Ambassador in the US to “apologise” for Trump’s remarks. “I have just apologised to Indian Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla for Trump’s amateurish and embarrassing mistake,” he tweeted.

It was not clear how an apology by Angel, an Opposition member who has been criticising all of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives, would square up with the executive’s statement that shows little indication of addressing the main issue–that India had not requested for a mediation.

After stating that PM Modi had asked him to mediate on Kashmir, Trump had then turned to Imran Khan saying he would accept the proposal “if” it was made by both countries.

Pakistan has taken a stand that is opposite to that of India on grounds that the dispute has remained unresolved at the bilateral level for over seven decades. In an interview shortly after his meeting with Trump at the White House, Khan said there was a point when during the tenures of Gen Pervez Musharraf and PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, both sides got close to the resolution of the Kashmiri issue. “But since then we are poles apart and I really feel that India should come on the table; the US could play a big part. President Trump certainly can play a big part.”

India’s reaction indicates that the climate to hold bilateral talks to resolve Kashmir can only turn conducive if Pakistan decisively ends cross-border terrorism. “The Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India and Pakistan bilaterally,” India had added to its denial that PM Modi ever asked for US mediation on Kashmir.

Khan had welcomed Trump’s remarks, saying, “President, I can tell you that, right now, you would have the prayers of over a billion people if you can mediate and resolve this issue.”

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