Hours after US President Donald Trump offered to “mediate” between New Delhi and Islamabad over Kashmir, Pakistan Prime Minister welcomed the move, saying the contentious issue between the two neighbours could never be resolved “bilaterally.”
In an interview with Fox News, Khan after meeting Trump at the White House said, “There was one point when there was General (Pervez) Musharraf and Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee of India when we did get close to the resolution of the Kashmiri issue. But since then we are poles apart and I really feel that India should come on the table; US could play a big part. President Trump certainly can play a big part.”
“We are talking about 1.3 billion people on this earth. Imagine the dividends of peace if somehow that issue could be resolved. Bilaterally there will never be (a resolution of the Kashmir dispute),” Khan, who is on a three-day official visit to the US said.
During a meeting with Khan at the White House Monday, Trump said he had discussed the Kashmir issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of G-20 Summit and that he would “love to be a mediator.”
India has rejected Trump’s claim that Modi had asked him to be a mediator on Kashmir. “It has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally. Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross border terrorism. The Shimla Agreement & the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India & Pakistan bilaterally,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
The statement by the US President is likely to create a diplomatic and political firestorm given that Parliament is in session. Prime Minister Modi is also likely to travel to the US in September.
“It’s impossible that two incredible countries that are very very smart, with very smart leadership can’t solve a problem like that. But if you want me to mediate or arbitrate, I would be willing to do it,” Trump told Khan. Khan then said, “President, I can tell you that right now you will have prayers of over a billion people if you can mediate and resolve this issue.”
Hours later, the US State Department clarified saying Kashmir was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and that the US “welcomes” the two countries “sitting down” for talks. It also said Pakistan taking “sustained and irreversible” steps against terrorism is key to a successful dialogue with India.
“While Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss, the Trump administration welcomes Pakistan and India sitting down and the United States stands ready to assist,” a State Department spokesperson told PTI in response to a question if Trump’s remarks reflect a change in the country’s policy on Kashmir.
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