India has firmly rejected US President Donald Trump's stunning claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked him to "mediate" on Kashmir, stressing that "all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally".
President Trump, in a joint press briefing with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House on Monday, said, "If I can help, I would love to be a mediator". He went on to share what he claimed was a conversation he had with PM Modi recently.
"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'. Because this has been going on for many, many years... I think they would like to see it resolved and you (Imran Khan) would like to see it resolved. If I can help, I would love to be a mediator," President Trump told reporters.
"I've heard so much about Kashmir, it's such a beautiful name, it's supposed to be such a beautiful part of the world. But right now there's just bombs all over the place, they say everywhere you go, you have bombs, and it's a terrible situation, been going on for many years. If I can do anything about that, let me know," he said.
The "prayers of over a billion people will be with you if you can mediate and resolve the situation," Imran Khan responded.
The foreign ministry immediately put out a strong denial in a series of tweets, emphasizing that "no such request has been made" by the Prime Minister. Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar posted:
We have seen @POTUS's remarks to the press that he is ready to mediate, if requested by India & Pakistan, on Kashmir issue. No such request has been made by PM @narendramodi to US President. It has been India's consistent position...1/2— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) July 22, 2019
...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 & the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India & Pakistan bilaterally.2/2— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) July 22, 2019
Hours after Trump's remark, the US State Department on Monday said Kashmir is a bilateral issue concerning Islamabad and New Delhi and that Washington is "ready to assist".
"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," the State Department tweeted.
President Trump and PM Modi had met last month on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was also at the summit but there was no bilateral meet between him and PM Modi.
India has been against any third-party mediation in Kashmir, though it has been repeatedly sought by Pakistan in various international forums, including the United Nations.
The US had backed India's stance, maintaining that Kashmir is a bilateral issue and should be solved between New Delhi and Islamabad.
India, after a series of strikes by Pakistan-based terrorists, has stressed that Islamabad must first take action against terrorists operating from its soil for resumption of dialogue.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was among the first to react on Monday to President Trump's bombshell. His tweet read: "Is Govt of India going to call @realDonaldTrump a liar or has there been an undeclared shift in India's position on third party involvement in #Kashmir?"
The Congress's Shashi Tharoor tweeted: "I honestly don't think Trump has the slightest idea of what he's talking about. He has either not been briefed or not understood what Modi was saying or what India's position is on 3rd-party mediation. That said, MEA should clarify that Delhi has never sought his intercession."
This morning, tweets from the opposition party took on a sharper note.
The President of United States of America @realDonaldTrump with Prime Minister of Pakistan @ImranKhanPTI standing next to him has publicly recounted at great length a conversation @narendramodi had with him in Osaka to mediate on Kashmir. Even by Trump's Post truth standards 1/1— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) July 23, 2019
1/2 this is a very serious claim to make wherein he has either invented a conversation or stated what actually transpired between the two. A response by a Joint Secy level officer won't do. PM must clarify in both houses today whether he asked Trump to mediate on Kashmir or not?— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) July 23, 2019
An influential US Democratic Congressman on Tuesday apologised to India's US envoy for President Trump's "embarrassing" remarks on Kashmir, while several others came out in support of New Delhi's established stand against any third-party role on the issue.
"I just apologized to Indian Ambassador Harsh Shringla for Trump's amateurish and embarrassing mistake," Congressman Brad Sherman tweeted.