A day after US President Donald Trump called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking India and Pakistan to work towards reducing tensions in Kashmir, US Defence Secretary Mark T Esper spoke to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Tuesday and “appreciated India’s position that the recent developments in Jammu & Kashmir are an internal matter of India”.
This is the first time that the US has described the current J&K situation as India’s “internal matter”. The remarks come days after Russia became the first UN Security Council permanent member to underline that the changes in J&K have been carried out “within the framework” of India’s Constitution.
Earlier, hours after Modi told Trump that “extreme rhetoric and incitement to anti-India violence” by certain leaders in the region was “not conducive to peace”, the US President asked Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan late Monday to “moderate” his rhetoric over J&K.
During his conversation with Khan, Trump “reaffirmed the need to avoid escalation of the situation, and urged restraint” on both sides, the White House said.
On Tuesday, Modi also spoke to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and drew attention to the “challenges posed by vested interests pursuing their motivated agenda, including by violent means”. In this context he referred to the violence and vandalism perpetrated by a large mob against the High Commission of India in London on Independence Day. Johnson “regretted the incident” and assured that all necessary steps would be taken to ensure safety and security of the High Commission, its personnel and visitors, a PMO statement said.
On Tuesday’s conversation with Esper, the Defence Ministry said that Singh raised the issue of “cross-border terrorism” and “appreciated US support for India’s effort to maintain peace and stability in the region”. Singh said that issues relating to Article 370 are an “internal matter” aimed at improving growth, economic development, democracy and prosperity for the people of J&K, the ministry said.
“US Secretary of Defence appreciated India’s position that the recent developments in Jammu & Kashmir are an internal matter of India. He hoped that any issue between India and Pakistan will be resolved bilaterally,” the ministry said. The US Embassy spokesperson in Delhi confirmed the phone conversation with Esper.
Singh had created a flutter over the past few days as he opened the debate on the nuclear No-First Use policy and later said that India will talk to Pakistan only on PoK. Both statements were perceived as signalling new thinking in the establishment.
Trump, who called Modi Monday evening before speaking to Khan, tweeted Tuesday morning: “Spoke to my two good friends, Prime Minister Modi of India, and Prime Minister Khan of Pakistan, regarding trade, strategic partnerships and, most importantly, for India and Pakistan to work towards reducing tensions in Kashmir.” He also tweeted: “A tough situation, but good conversations!”
This was the first time that Trump had spoken to Modi since the special status of J&K was revoked two weeks ago.
In a readout of the phone call between Trump and Khan, the White House said the President spoke with Khan to discuss “the need to reduce tensions and moderate rhetoric with India over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir”.
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said Trump spoke with Modi to “discuss regional developments” and the US-India strategic partnership. The President conveyed the importance of reducing tensions between India and Pakistan, and maintaining peace in the region, he said.
“The two leaders further discussed how they will continue to strengthen United States-India economic ties through increased trade, and they look forward to meeting again soon,” Gidley said.
Trump’s advice to Khan came in the wake of provocative statements by the Pakistan PM, seen as war-mongering by New Delhi. Referring to Trump’s conversation with Khan, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad: “It was a constructive engagement, and Prime Minister Khan urged the US and President Trump to play a role in addressing the situation in Kashmir.”
In the Rajnath Singh-Mark Esper call, both ministers expressed happiness at the significant progress in bilateral defence cooperation, and reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen and deepen the relations.
“They exchanged views on a range of issues related to military-to-military cooperation, defence policy, R&D cooperation, defence trade, technology and industrial cooperation. They expressed satisfaction on the first tri-service joint exercise planned for later this year and steps taken to operationalize agreements like LEMOA and COMCASA,” the ministry’s statement said.
It also said that Singh invited US companies to invest in India’s defence manufacturing sector under the Make-in-India programme. “Both the Ministers looked forward to the 2+2 dialogue later this year in the US,” it said.