New Delhi: Amid a massive controversy over US President Donald Trump’s claim on Kashmir mediation, India on Tuesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi never made any such request to the US leader and reiterated that Kashmir is a bilateral issue. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in Rajya Sabha that all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan can be discussed only bilaterally, thereby ruling out any third-party mediation.
“I would like to categorically state that no such request has been made by the prime minister to the US President,” Jaishankar said after Congress and other opposition parties raised the issue of the claim made by Trump in his meeting with visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Washington on Monday. He said it has been the consistent position of India that all outstanding issues with Pakistan can be discussed only bilaterally.
“Any engagement with Pakistan will require an end to cross border terrorism,” Jaishankar said, adding Shimla and Lahore accords signed between India and Pakistan provide the basis for resolution of all issues bilaterally.
Opposition parties were, however, not satisfied by the statement by the external affairs minister and wanted the prime minister to come to the House and clarify. This led to heated exchanges between opposition benches and Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, who adjourned proceedings till 1200 hours.
Jaishankar noted that on Monday the US President had in his talks with Khan stated that he is ready to mediate on the Kashmir issue if requested. “No such request was made to the US President,” he said adding his statement on the floor of the House should leave no confusion in minds of countrymen.
Jaishankar vs opposition in Rajya Sabha
Earlier, Chairman Naidu said he has received notice under Rule 267, requiring suspension of business of the day, from Congress deputy leader Anand Sharma and CPI’s D Raja. Naidu said he is not admitting the notice but considering its importance he would allow it to be raised in the form of a Zero Hour mention to which the External Affairs Minister would like to respond. But before that the country should be seen as speaking in one voice on the sensitive issue of national importance, Naidu said.
Anand Sharma said Trump had in comments aired on television, stated that Prime Minister of India had at the recent G20 meeting in Osaka in Japan sought his mediation. India’s position has been consistent and clear on Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and has always maintained that it will not accept third party mediation in purely bilateral issue. Since Parliament is in session and considering that the comments were made by the President of the world’s most powerful nation to the prime minister of another country, Prime Minister Modi should come to the House and clarify on the issue, he said.
Raja wanted to know if there was any change in India’s position on third-party mediation on Kashmir issue.”The denial given by officials of the Ministry of External Affairs is not enough. The prime minister should come to House and clarify,” he said.
Trump had made the remarks at his meeting with Khan at the White House on Monday. “If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Trump was quoted as telling reporters with Khan beside him. I was with Prime Minister Narendra Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject and he actually said ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator’, I said ‘Where’, He said ‘Kashmir’.
“Because this has been going on for many, many years… I think they would like to see it resolved and you (Imran Khan) would like to see it resolved. If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Trump said, referring to a meeting with Modi on the sidelines of the G20 meeting.
Khan was quick to respond, saying, “Prayers of over a billion people will be with you if you can mediate and resolve the situation”.
Jaishankar said, “No such request has been made” by Modi and it has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally. “The Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India and Pakistan bilaterally,” he said. Opposition party members soon started raising slogans.
Naidu asked members not to make a national issue into a political issue. “You have more confidence in the American President than India’s Foreign Minister?” he asked as members continued to protest. He asked members to be seated as this was “sending a wrong signal”. As Naidu moved to other Zero Hour mentions, Derek O’Brien of the TMC protested vigorously, saying the Leader of the opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad too was not given an opportunity to seek clarification.
Naidu shot back, asking if he was questioning the chair. As O’Brien continued to protest, Naidu ordered that nothing will go on record. “This is not fair,” he remarked as the angry exchange continued. He then abruptly adjourned proceedings till 12:00 hours.