Two days after he spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan PM Imran Khan, US President Donald Trump suggested — for the third time in a month — that he will do the best he can to “mediate” on the Kashmir issue.
Speaking at the White House Wednesday, Trump called the situation in Kashmir “very explosive” and a “very tough situation”. “I will do the best I can to mediate or do something,” he said.
The US President’s latest remarks have set the stage for a possible meeting between him and Modi at the G-7 summit meeting in Biarritz, France, between August 25 and 26.
There was no response from the Indian government to the remarks, but sources said the two sides are in touch on the issue. The US side had already clarified its position earlier, sources said, and the two leaders are expected to interact over the issue during the G-7 summit.
At least twice in the recent past, after the J&K Reorganisation Bill 2019 was passed, India has made it clear that it brooks no interference or mediation on the issue, most recently when External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar conveyed this position to US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo this month.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that while his country enjoyed “good relations” with India, he expected the Indian government to “adopt a just policy”.
“We’re concerned about Muslims’ situation in #Kashmir. We have good relations with India, but we expect the Indian government to adopt a just policy towards the noble people of Kashmir and prevent the oppression & bullying of Muslims in this region,” Khamenei posted on Twitter.
Blaming the British for the situation, he posted: “The current situation in #Kashmir & the disputes between India & Pakistan regarding it are a result of the vicious British government’s measures while leaving the Indian subcontinent. The British intentionally left this wound in that region in order to sustain conflicts in Kashmir.”
Also Wednesday, Bangladesh echoed the Indian line and said that revoking special status to J&K is India’s “internal matter”.
The US needs Pakistan’s help to keep the Taliban on the talks table for it to exit Afghanistan. At the same time, it sees India as a key strategic partner in the region to counter China’s influence. It’s a delicate balancing act, which is reflected in Trump’s repeated offers to mediate on Kashmir.
“Bangladesh maintains that the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian Government is an internal issue of India. Bangladesh has always advocated, as a matter of principle, that maintaining regional peace and stability, as well as development should be a priority for all countries,” the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Earlier, claiming that “they have been having these talks for hundreds of years, even under different names”, Trump said: “But this is Kashmir, and Kashmir is a very complicated place. You have the Hindus and the Muslims, and I wouldn’t say they get along so great and that’s what you have right now.”
The US President said: “You have millions of people that want to be ruled by others and maybe on both sides, and you have two counties that haven’t gotten along well for a long time and frankly it’s a very explosive situation. I spoke to PM Khan, I spoke with yesterday also PM Modi. They are both friends of mine, they are great people. They are great people and they love their countries and they are in a tough situation, Kashmir is a very tough situation.”
Trump also claimed: “This has been going on for decades, decades. Shooting, I don’t mean shooting a rifle, I mean like major shooting of howitzers, of heavy arms and it’s being going on for a long period of time but I get along really well with both of them.”
Referring to his interactions with Modi and Khan, Trump said: “As you know, PM Khan was here just recently and I am going to be with PM Modi over the weekend in France. So I think we are helping the situation but there is tremendous problems between those two countries, as you know, and I will do the best I can to mediate or do something.”
He further said: “Great relationship with both of them but they are not exactly friends at this moment, complicated situation. A lot has to do with religion, religion is a complicated subject.”
On August 2, hours after Trump said he would “certainly intervene” on the Kashmir issue if New Delhi and Islamabad wanted him to, India rejected any mediation. Significantly, Trump did not reiterate a previous claim that Modi had asked him to intervene, in what was perceived as back-pedalling from his claim last month.
India’s firm but polite rejection of the offer had come when Jaishankar, after meeting Pompeo in Bangkok, said that “any discussion on Kashmir, if at all warranted, will only be with Pakistan and only bilaterally”. The two had met on the sidelines of the 9th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers meeting.
On July 22, in remarks that were promptly denied, Trump had said that Modi had asked him to play the role of mediator on Kashmir, and “if I can help, I would love to be the mediator” between India and Pakistan. Delhi had denied the claim.