August 2019 News

PM Narendra Modi Trumps Imran Khan On Kashmir Mediation Issue At G7 Summit

25 August 2019
LiveMint
Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday rejected US President Donald Trump's earlier offer to mediate the dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir, while saying the two South Asian neighbours can resolve all issues bilaterally. Modi made the remarks while interacting with reporters, sitting next to Trump, ahead of a formal bilateral exchange between the two leaders. Trump in his early comments to journalists said India and Pakistan could resolve the issue themselves, a departure from his earlier stand. The two leaders were interacting on the sidelines of the G7 summit in the French town of Biarritz. The talks were held amid Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan dubbing himself the 'ambassador of Kashmir' after India abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, evoking a strong reaction from its western neighbour. Khan also warned that rising tensions with India could spark a nuclear war-seen as an attempt to draw international attention and intervention in the matter given that several countries have urged both sides to sort out their differences on their own. Trump has in recent days offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute, despite India repeatedly stating that it is a bilateral matter between the two nations. Trump's seeming interest in the matter is seen as the result of the US wanting Islamabad's cooperation to work out an exit deal with the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan. Pakistan has in the past indicated that tensions with India over Kashmir-especially after India revoked a provision in its Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir-could hamper its efforts to get the Taliban to the negotiating table. 'There are many bilateral issues between India and Pakistan, and we don't want to trouble any third country. We can discuss and resolve these issues bilaterally,' Modi said when asked if Trump's mediation offer was on the table. In his comments, Modi recalled that India and Pakistan were together before 1947 and he was confident that the two neighbours could resolve their problems bilaterally. 'When I had called Prime Minister (Imran) Khan after the elections (in July 2018), I told him that Pakistan has to fight against poverty, India has to also fight against it. Pakistan has to fight against illiteracy and disease, and India has to also fight against them... I told him we should work together for the welfare of our people,' Modi said. On his part, Trump said he and Modi discussed the matter on Sunday and that 'the Prime Minister really feels he has it (the situation) under control. They speak with Pakistan and I'm sure that they will be able to do something that will be very good,' Trump said. 'I have very good relationship with both the gentlemen (Modi and Khan) and I'm here. I think they can do it (resolve the issue) themselves,' he added. Trump's comments in Modi's presence almost coincided with Khan warning that 'if conflict moves towards war, then remember both nations have nuclear weapons and no one is a winner in nuclear war and it has global ramifications'. 'Superpowers of the world have a huge responsibility... whether they support us or not, Pakistan will go to every extent,' Khan was cited as saying by ANI news agency. Briefing reporters at Biarritz on the Modi-Trump meeting, Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said the 40-minute meeting focused on trade issues and energy cooperation. Trump has often called India out for what he terms unfair trade practices including the imposition of high tariffs-making the issue an irritant in ties. According to Gokhale, Modi recalled that India was importing $4 billion worth of fuel from the US and New Delhi was hoping to step this up. With elections behind him, Modi conveyed to Trump that 'this was something we could have a constructive approach to', Gokhale said. Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goel may travel to the US ahead of a visit by Modi next month, which could see irritants on the trade front ironed out, he added. A statement from Trump's office said: 'The two leaders discussed ways to broaden their strategic partnership and greatly increase trade between the United States and India. President Trump reaffirmed the need for dialogue between India and Pakistan to reduce tensions and acknowledged India's role as a critical partner in Afghanistan.' 'Excellent meeting with @POTUS @realDonaldTrump! We had useful discussions on bilateral matters. We agreed to address trade issues for mutual benefit soon. Looking forward to expand cooperation as large democracies for the benefit of our citizens and global peace and prosperity,' Modi said in a Twitter post.

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