In a measured comment with the Indian Prime Minister by his side, US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he believed Narendra Modi and Pakistan PM Imran Khan will “get together” and work something out on Kashmir.
A day after he described Khan as a “great leader” before their bilateral meeting, Trump called Modi the “father of India” and compared his presence at the Howdy Modi event in Houston Sunday with that of Elvis Presley.
But Trump, who was speaking to reporters ahead of his bilateral meeting with Modi Tuesday, stopped short of blaming Pakistan for supporting terrorism, and pointed to Iran as the biggest state sponsor of terror.
Asked about Khan’s statement during an event Monday that the Pakistan Army had trained Al Qaeda, Trump said: “I haven’t heard that. I know that your PM will take care of it. It will be great if they can work out something in Kashmir… you have a great PM, he will solve the problem.”
After the bilateral meeting later, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said the Prime Minister shared concerns on terrorism in the context of Jammu and Kashmir — and how it led to the loss of 42,000 lives over the last 30 years in Kashmir.
According to Gokhale, Modi told Trump that India has never shied away from talking to Pakistan, but Islamabad has not reciprocated. He recalled how he had invited the then Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony in 2014 and flown to Lahore with minimal security later.
Editorial | Brothers in arms
But the attack on Pathankot happened soon after that, and the accused have not yet been brought to justice, Modi told the US President. Delhi expected Islamabad to take concrete steps, which did not happen, Gokhale said.
Modi also told Trump that it was incumbent on the international community to join hands to fight terrorism. In this context, he referred to Indian Muslims who have a very low presence in terrorist groups. The US President “acknowledged and noted” it, said Gokhale.
On the issue of mediation, Gokhale made it clear that the position of the Indian government is “very clear… if there are issues to be discussed, they will be discussed bilaterally”.
Ahead of the meeting, while responding to questions, Trump said he had a “very good meeting with Khan” the previous day. “He (Khan) would like to see something happen. Something will happen very fruitful, very peaceful, I think that will happen ultimately,” he said.
“I really believe these two gentlemen will get together and work something,” Trump said, as Modi looked on. “I really believe PM Modi and PM Khan will get along, once they get to know each other. I think lots of good things will come from that meeting.”
While the Prime Minister was accompanied by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, among others, Trump was accompanied by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.
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Responding to questions on Pakistan being the epicentre of terrorism, the US President said: “You mentioned Pakistan, Iran will have to be on top of the list because if you really look at the terror states, it’s been No.1 for a long time.”
Asked if he had any message for Pakistan, since Khan has admitted to links between the Army and terrorist groups, Trump was clear: “The message is not for me to give, but for PM Modi. And I think he gave that loud and clear the other day, a pretty loud message…I am sure he will be able to handle the situation.”
On the trade front, the Foreign Secretary said “significant progress” has been made and differences narrowed. “We will have a trade deal very soon,” Trump said. Gokhale said they were “optimistic” about the discussions, which are ongoing since these were “complex” and involved the industry and jobs.
“We did not discuss any timeline on trade. I am optimistic that we will be able to conclude an understanding soon,” Gokhale said. He underlined that India is looking at a “fair and reasonable deal”, which will take care of its access to US markets as well as address some of the US concerns.
Ahead of the bilateral meeting that lasted for about 30-40 minutes at the UN headquarters, Modi said he has met Trump three times in the last four months since being re-elected. He said the closeness, ease and continuous engagement between the two democracies is a “very good sign for the world”, as it is a friendship “based on values”.
“I am thankful to Trump that he came to Houston. He is my friend but he is also a good friend of India,” Modi said. In his remarks later, Trump responded: “My personal chemistry is as good as it can get. I have great respect, great admiration, and I really like him. He is a great gentlemen and a great leader… And I remember India before, there was lot of dissension, lot of fighting, he got it all together, like a father will bring it together. Maybe he is the father of India, we will call him father of India,” he said, as Modi, Jaishankar and Goyal smiled.
Asked about the Houston event, Trump said Modi was an Indian version of Elvis. “He has done a fantastic job. What that event showed. How much I like India and how much I like your Prime Minister. They love this gentleman. Those people went crazy,” he said.
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