Trump told reporters on Monday that Modi had asked him, during a meeting in Japan last month, if he would like to be a mediator on Kashmir, which is at the heart of decades of hostility between India and Pakistan.
But Foreign Minister Subrahmanyan Jaishankar, who was part of the Indian delegation at the G20 meeting in Japan where Trump and Modi met, rebutted that claim and told agitated legislators on Tuesday that Modi did not seek any help from Trump over the divided Himalayan region.
“The US president made certain remarks to the effect he was ready to mediate if requested by India and Pakistan. I categorically assure the house that no such request has been made by the prime minister, I repeat, no such request was made,” he told India’s parliament.
Trump was speaking at the White House just before he sat down for talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who welcomed the US effort to intercede, saying he would carry the hopes of more than a billion people in the region.
But the US leader’s comments triggered a political storm in India, which has long bristled at any suggestion of third-party involvement in tackling Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region that it considers as an integral part of the country.
Soon after Trump’s remarks, the US State Department said in a post on Twitter that it supported any dialogue between India and Pakistan but that Kashmir was a matter for the two countries.
“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,” said Alice Wells, the acting assistant secretary of the department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.
Jaishankar said there could be no third-party involvement in India’s problems with Pakistan.
“I also reiterate that it has been India’s position that all outstanding issues are discussed only bilaterally. I further underline any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross-border terrorism,” he said.
— State_SCA (@State_SCA) July 22, 2019
Kashmir is claimed by both Hindu-majority India and Pakistan, with the nuclear-armed neighbours having twince gone to war over the territory since India’s independence and the birth of Pakistan in 1947.
Pakistan has long pressed for the implementation of decades-old UN resolutions calling for a ballot for the region to decide its future. India says the United Nations has no role in Kashmir, where separatist rebels have been battling Indian forces for years.
Tension between the two countries has been high since an attack on an Indian military convoy in India-administered Kashmir’s Pulwama region in February.
The attack, claimed by a Pakistan-based rebel group, prompted India to send warplanes into Pakistan. Pakistan retaliated by ordering its jets into India’s side of Kashmir the following day, raising the prospect of a wider conflict.
Pakistan’s Khan, meanwhile, said he was “surprised” by India’s reaction to President Trump’s “offer of mediation”, saying the conflict had “held the subcontinent hostage for 70 years”.
“Generations of Kashmiris have suffered and are suffering daily and need conflict resolution,” Khan said in a post on Twitter.
3. Surprised by reaction of India to Pres Trump's offer of mediation to bring Pak & India to dialogue table for resolving Kashmir conflict which has held subcontinent hostage for 70 yrs. Generations of Kashmiris have suffered & are suffering daily and need conflict resolution.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) July 23, 2019
Pakistan denies Indian accusations that it gives material help to the rebel groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir for nearly three decades, but says it gives moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.
Some 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have died over the past 30 years in India-administered Kashmir, monitoring groups say.