Congress leader Sonia Gandhi came armed with a transcript of United States President Donald Trump's remarks on Kashmir as the opposition continued to question the government in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. But she passed the document to party leader Manish Tewari, who is leading the opposition attack, instead of quoting from the document herself during Zero Hour.
Donald Trump claimed on Monday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan, sparking off sharp denials from India. "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?' (PM Modi said) 'Kashmir'," he said during his talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan - their first since the latter came to power in August 2018.
Given that India has opposed third-party mediation in the Kashmir dispute for the last 70 years, the remark gave rise to outrage in both the countries. While former US diplomats expressed fear of such a statement damaging bilateral relations, Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman apologised for the President's "amateurish and embarrassing" mistake.
The Indian foreign ministry, for its part, denied PM Modi making any such request of Donald Trump. "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 that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally," Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.
Later, the Trump administration attempted damage control by saying that Donald Trump had only offered to "assist" in arriving at a solution to a problem that was strictly "bilateral". "We will continue to support efforts that reduce tensions and create an environment conducive for dialogue. This first and foremost means tackling the menace of terrorism. As the President indicated, we stand ready to assist," the White House spokesperson said in response to a question.
However, the opposition attacks against the ruling BJP did not stop. "These claims made by Donald Trump are very serious in nature, and the Prime Minister should personally clarify on the matter," said Manish Tiwari. Similar demands were also made by the Trinamool Congress' Saugata Roy and the DMK's TR Baalu.
After Manish Tewari was done, the transcript was passed back to Sonia Gandhi, who neatly tucked it into her folder of documents.
(With inputs from PTI)
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