September 26 (PTI) – U.S. President Donald Trump said he discussed Kashmir with the top leadership of India and Pakistan during his meetings with them and offered to help with “arbitration or mediation” on the issue to the two nuclear-armed neighbours, who have to “work it out”.
Mr. Trump’s comments came a day after he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session here where the two leaders mainly focused on issues related to terrorism emanating from Pakistan and the Indo-U.S. bilateral trade.
India maintains that Kashmir is a bilateral issue and no third party has any role in it. Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue after India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, but New Delhi has asserted the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter.”
Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, President Trump said he had “very productive conversations” with the leaders of India and Pakistan on the margins of the UN General Assembly.
“With respect to Pakistan and India, we talked about Kashmir. Whatever help I can be, I said, I offered, whether it’s arbitration or mediation or whatever it has to be,” Mr. Trump said in his opening remarks, offering to mediate for the fourth time.
Mr. Trump said he will “do whatever he can, because, they are at very serious odds right now and hopefully that will get better.”
“You look at the two gentlemen heading those two countries, two good friends of mine. I said, fellows work it out, just work it out. Those are two nuclear countries, gotta work it out,” he said.
When asked to comment on Trump’s remarks, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India position is “very clear.”
“I think it has been articulated by the Prime Minister earlier. It was articulated yesterday (Tuesday) by the foreign secretary so that position remains,” Mr. Kumar told reporters at a briefing.
Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had told reporters after the Modi-Trump meeting that the Prime Minister “made it clear that we are not shying away from talks with Pakistan.”
“But for that to happen, we expect some concrete steps to be taken by Pakistan. And we do not find any effort by Pakistan taking those steps,” Mr. Gokhale had said.
Mr. Trump’s meeting with PM Modi on Tuesday — their fourth meeting since Modi came to power for a second term in May this year — came a day after the U.S. President met Pakistani premier Imran Khan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session.
A White House readout on Wednesday said Mr. Trump “encouraged” Mr. Modi to improve relations with Pakistan and fulfil his promise to better the lives of the Kashmiri people.
Mr. Gokhale had said during the meeting, PM Modi explained in detail to Mr. Trump the challenges faced by India because of terrorism, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, where 42,000 lives have been lost in the last 30 years due to terrorism.
Tensions between the two countries have spiked since the abrogation of Article 370. It evoked strong reactions from Islamabad, which downgraded ties and expelled the Indian Ambassador.
Meanwhile, both Modi and Khan are scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on Friday.