–US president says he will raise Kashmir issue with Indian PM Modi in France over weekend
–State Department backs Pakistan’s decision to approach ICJ against India over Kashmir
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday once again offered to mediate the “explosive” situation in Kashmir amid mounting international concern over a flare-up in violence between Pakistan and India in the disputed region.
Speaking with reporters at the Oval Office a day after telephonic conversations with the premiers of both countries, Trump said that he was happy to try and help calm the situation in Kashmir where tensions have spiked since India revoked autonomous rule in the part of the region under its occupation on August 5.
His comments came as Pakistan said that three of its civilians died in Indian gunfire from across the de facto border in Kashmir known as the Line of Control (LoC).
Trump — who has previously spoken of his willingness to mediate — said that he would raise the situation over the weekend with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both men are expected in France for a summit of the Group of Seven industralised nations.
“Kashmir is a very complicated place. You have Hindus and you have the Muslims and I would not say they get along so great,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“You have millions of people that want to be ruled by others and maybe on both sides. And you have two countries that have not gotten along well for a long time. And, frankly, it is a very explosive situation,” he said.
“I spoke to Prime Minister Imran Khan. I spoke with, yesterday, also, Prime Minister Modi. They are both friends of mine. They are great people. They are great people. And they love their countries. And they are in a very tough situation,” Trump continued.
He noted that Kashmir was a very tough situation. “And, you know, we are talking about — this has been going on for decades and decades. Shooting. I do not mean shooting like shooting a rifle, I mean like major shooting of howitzers, of — you know, of heavy arms. And it has been going on for a long period of time,” he said.
“But I get along really well with both of them. As you know, Prime Minister Khan was here just recently. And I was with — I am going to be with Prime Minister Modi. I will be with him over the weekend in France,” he added.
He once again reiterated his help and said, “I think we are helping the situation. But there are tremendous problems between those two countries, as you know. And I will do the best I can to meditate or do something. Great relationship with both of them, but they are not exactly friends at this moment. Complicated situation.”
At least 4,000 people have been detained in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) since early August when authorities imposed a communications blackout and restricted freedom of movement in the region.
A senior US official, who has just returned from a visit to the region, called on India on Tuesday to quickly release detainees and restore basic liberties.
“We continue to be very concerned by reports of detentions, and continued restrictions on the residents of the region,” the State Department official told reporters.
“We urge respect for individual rights, compliance with legal procedures and an inclusive dialogue,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Speaking about Pakistan’s decision to take the Kashmir issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the official said it was Pakistan sovereign decision whether it wants to approach the ICJ.
“Our view is a resolution in Kashmir is not aided by multilateralising it, that the answer is direct conversation between India and Pakistan,” the official added.
Both Pakistan and India have controlled portions of the former princely state of Kashmir since independence in 1947. The dispute over the Muslim-majority region has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between them. Earlier this year, both countries once again came close to all-out conflict following a militant attack in IOK’s Pulawama district.
On Tuesday, Trump spoke separately with the prime ministers of Pakistan and India in a bid to calm tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors over the disputed valley. He said on Twitter that he spoke to his “good friends” Modi and Khan about getting the two countries “to work towards reducing tensions in Kashmir. A tough situation, but good conversations!”
Prime Minister Imran Khan recently compared Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Hindu supremacist” government to the Nazis and said India was suppressing its sizable Muslim minority and endangering regional security. “The world must also seriously consider the safety & security of India’s nuclear arsenal in the control of the fascist, racist Hindu Supremacist Modi Govt,” the Pakistani premier wrote on August 18 in a series of tweets.
In their latest conversation, he told Trump that Pakistan “foresees a humanitarian crisis” arising from India’s “unilateral action” in Kashmir, foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters late on Monday.
In a statement on Modi’s conversation with Trump, the Indian prime minister’s office did not refer explicitly to a discussion on Kashmir, saying only that “in the context of the regional situation, the Prime Minister stated that extreme rhetoric and incitement to anti-India violence by certain leaders in the region was not conducive to peace.”
On July 23, during his meeting with PM Imran at the Oval Office, Trump had offered to mediate the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India, saying he had talked to Indian PM Modi about it as well. However, India bristled at any suggestion of foreign mediation and strenuously denied Trump’s claim that Modi had invited him to act a peacebroker.
India was also left seething when the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held its first formal meeting on Kashmir in nearly half a century last week, saying it would not accept “international busybodies … tell(ing) us how to run our lives.”
On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Modi in a phone call that the Kashmir dispute must be resolved between India and Pakistan alone.
Johnson “made clear that the UK views the issue of Kashmir as one for India and Pakistan to resolve bilaterally. He underlined the importance of resolving issues through dialogue,” a spokeswoman for his Downing Street office said.
But in a further sign of the international concern about the situation, officials in France said that President Emmanuel Macron would bring up Kashmir with Modi when the two meet in Paris ahead of the G7 summit.