India: Kashmir a bilateral issue after Trump offers help to resolve issue

India again reacted on Kashmir on remark by US President Donald Trump where he offered to ‘help’ resolve the issue on Tuesday in Davos. MEA officials reiterated India’s stated position, “Kashmir is a bilateral issue and will have to be solved bilaterally.”

The officials said the government’s stand is consistent that “talks and terror cannot go together. For any conversation to take place, Pakistan will have to shut terror first.”

Trump had made similar offers last year. India had categorically rejected the offer to mediate. In one instance, PM Narendra Modi in a joint media interaction with Trump had said that Kashmir issue is a bilateral matter and India would not like a third-party mediation.

The Davos meeting between Trump and Khan was the third one-on-one meeting between the two leaders in less than a year. It was attended by delegations from both sides as they discussed issues relating to regional security, Afghan peace process, US-Iran tension and Jammu and Kashmir.

Khan raised the issue of Kashmir and referred to revoking Article 370 ending special status of Jammu and Kashmir and sought intervention of Trump in particular and international community in general.

“Of course India, it is a big issue for US and Pakistan as a sovereign nation. And we always hope that the US would play its part in solving it. Because no other country can,” Khan said.

The US has recently warmed up to Pakistan in the backdrop of rising tension with Iran. It cleared some funds for Pakistan and started military training programmes halted in 2018. This was welcomed by the military establishment in Rawalpindi.

However, remarks made especially by Trump at the Davos meeting ahead of his India visit slated for later this year did not go down well with the government. Trump has used various forms of the word “mediation”, “arbitration”, “intervention” at least seven times in the past.

The first offer was in July 2019, when Imran Khan was visiting Washington DC. “If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Trump had said, in response to Khan’s appeal to use his good offices.

Trump repeated the same on August 1 when confronted by journalists after a strong reaction from India. “If they wanted somebody to intervene or to help them,” he had said.

The third mention was on August 26, 2019, after his meeting with PM Modi at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France where he took a step back and said, “We spoke last night about Kashmir… And the Prime Minister (Modi) really feels he has it under control. I know they speak with Pakistan, and I’m sure that they will be able to do something that will be very good. We spoke about it last night at great length.”

On August 21 he said, “I think we are helping the situation but there are tremendous problems between those two countries and I will do the best I can to meditate or do something.”

On September 9 when asked he said, “I’m willing to help them. I get along well with both countries very well. I’m willing to help if they want.”

On September 23, 2019, on the sidelines of the UNGA, he spoke to reporters with Imran Khan sitting beside him when he said, “I am ready, willing and able. It’s a complex issue and it’s been going on for a long time. But if they are both willing then I’m ready to do it.”

Trump repeated his offer two days later at a news conference on September 25 in New York, “I offered, whether it’s arbitration or mediation, or whatever it has to be, I’ll do whatever I can.”

Trump’s repeated referrence to mediation offer is surprising in the view that the US State Department has repeatedly clarified the official position saying that Kashmir is a bilateral issue to be resolved between India and Pakistan. But Trump has continued to mention the niggling issue much to the consternation of New Delhi.

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