Kashmir: Trump says offered to mediate between India & Pak
New York: US President Donald Trump has said that he offered "arbitration or mediation" on the Kashmir issue to the top leadership of India and Pakistan during separate meetings here and the two nuclear-armed neighbours have to "just work it out".
Trump's comments came a day after he held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday and two days after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan met the US President on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session.
"I said, 'Fellas, work it out. Just work it out,'" Trump said in his opening remarks at a news conference on Wednesday after attending the UNGA session.
India maintains that Kashmir is a bilateral issue with Pakistan and no third party has any role in it. Prime Minister Modi has also categorically rejected any scope for third party mediation between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.
"All the issues between India and Pakistan are of bilateral in nature, and we don't want to trouble any third country. We can discuss and resolve these issues bilaterally," Modi said on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in the French city of Biarritz, ahead of his bilateral meeting with Trump last month.
While Prime Minister Modi and Trump on Monday mainly focused on issues related to terrorism emanating from Pakistan and the Indo-US bilateral trade, Imran and Trump on Tuesday discussed the Afghan peace process and the Indo-Pak tensions over Kashmir.
On Wednesday, Trump said he held "very productive" conversations with the leaders of Pakistan and India.
"And with respect to Pakistan and India, we talked about Kashmir. And whatever help I can be, I said - I offered, whether it's arbitration or mediation, or whatever it has to be.
"I'll do whatever I can. Because they're at very serious odds right now, and hopefully that'll get better," Trump said, offering to mediate on the Kashmir issue for the fourth time in recent weeks amidst fresh Indo-Pak tensions.
"You look at the two gentlemen (Modi and Khan) heading those two countries, two good friends of mine. I said, fellows work it out, just work it out. Those are two nuclear countries, gotta work it out," the US President said, adding that many other nations are achieving stronger ties of fair and reciprocal trade.
Asked to comment on Trump's latest remarks, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India position is "very clear".
"I think it has been articulated by the prime minister earlier. It was articulated yesterday (Tuesday) by the foreign secretary so that position remains," Kumar told reporters at a briefing here.
Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters after the Modi-Trump meeting on Tuesday that the prime minister "made it clear that we are not shying away from talks with Pakistan".
"But for that to happen, we expect some concrete steps to be taken by Pakistan. And we do not find any effort by Pakistan taking those steps," Gokhale had said.
A White House readout of the Trump-Modi meeting said Trump "encouraged" Modi to improve relations with Pakistan and fulfil his promise to better the lives of the Kashmiri people.
Gokhale had said during the meeting, Modi explained in detail to Trump the challenges faced by India because of terrorism, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, where 42,000 lives have been lost in the last 30 years due to terrorism.
Tensions between the two countries have spiked since India abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
India's decision evoked strong reactions from Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian ambassador.
Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue after India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, but New Delhi has asserted the abrogation of Article 370 was its "internal matter".