Wrapping up his India visit intended to deepen bilateral ties, US President Donald Trump, responding to a query Tuesday on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, said he did not discuss that with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and “I want to leave that to India”. Asked about the violence in Delhi, he said, “I heard that but I didn’t discuss that with him (Modi).”
Not known for measured words, Trump was extremely careful in his statements — he made it clear at the beginning of his press conference that he did not want to overshadow the visit with his statements.
“As far as individual attacks are concerned, I have heard about them. I didn’t discuss that with him. It is up to India,” he told reporters.
On the CAA, he said: “I don’t want to discuss that, I want to leave that to India. I hope they will do the right thing for the people of India.”
He said he had raised the issue of religious freedom with Prime Minister Modi. Responding to a question on discrimination against Muslims, he said Modi gave him a “powerful answer” — that the population of Muslims had increased from 14 million to 200 million.
“We did discuss that, and specifically Muslims. We also discussed Christians… I had a very powerful answer from the Prime Minister. We talked about religious liberty for a long period of time in front of a lot of people. I had a very very powerful answer I think.”
Trump said Modi told him “they are working closely with the Muslim community”.
“We did talk about religious freedom and I would say that the Prime Minister was incredible on what he said. He wants people to have religious freedom, and very strongly said that in India they have worked very hard to have great and open religious freedom,” he said. “If you look back and look at what is going on relatively at other places, especially, they (India) have really worked hard on religious freedom.”
On Kashmir, Trump said it is a “big problem” and has been a “thorn” for a long time. He once again offered to mediate in de-escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. However, he clarified that he is not offering to mediate on the Kashmir issue.
On Pakistan, he said: “We talked a lot about Pakistan. I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister (Imran) Khan. We talked about it today at length with Prime Minister Modi. No question, it is a problem. It is a problem, they are working on it… We just hope, and I just said I will do whatever I have to do, if I can do that, because my relationship with both gentlemen is so good. But there has been difficulty in Pakistan. We are seeing what we can do about it. Anything I can do to mediate, anything I can do to help, I would do.”
“Kashmir has been a thorn in a lot of people’s sides for a long time. There are two sides to every story,” he said.
“Modi is a very religious man, he is a very calm man, but actually he is a very, very strong person, and very tough, actually. I have seen him in action. He has got that foremost on his mind (to deal with) terrorism. He will take care of it,” he said.
Earlier, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said, “The issue of CAA did not come up, but with regard to what you mentioned, the term religious freedom, there was appreciation from both sides that pluralism and diversity are a common binding factor of both the countries.”
“You would have heard President Trump, in his speech yesterday in Ahmedabad, referred to religious diversity and harmony that is evident in India and discussions really to the extent possible were on these lines on this issue,” he told reporters.
“Religious harmony was discussed in a positive way” between the two leaders, Shringla said, adding that the discussion on Jammu and Kashmir centred on positive developments in the region. “Things were moving in the right direction,” he said.