Comments from President Donald Trump during a Monday news conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan about the disputed south Asian territory of Kashmir set off a firestorm in India Tuesday.
Trump, during his remarks in the media, claimed that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally asked the American president to step in and help “mediate” the decades-long conflict over the territory, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan, as well as China.
“I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject and he actually said, ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?'” said Trump. “I said, ‘Where?’ He said, ‘Kashmir.’ Because this has been going on for many, many years.”
“I was surprised how long,” the president added. “It’s been going on a long time.”
The modern-era dispute traces back to 1947, when India and Pakistan both achieved independence from the British Empire. Trump was born in 1946.
If Trump’s recollection of the conversation is accurate—if the conversation happened at all—it would likely have happened at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan on June 28 and 29.
The American president’s comments represent a major break from Modi’s public policy in India, which rejects any third-party mediation of the conflict with Pakistan. Modi’s nationalist government was outraged at the prospect of Trump’s involvement in the dispute and demanded answers.
Modi “has betrayed India’s interests,” declared Indian National Congress representative Rahul Gandhi, who said that Modi owed the country an explanation.
“A weak Foreign Ministry denial won’t do,” Gandhi tweeted. “PM must tell the nation what transpired in the meeting between him & @POTUS.”
Pakistan’s Khan, meanwhile, said he was surprised at the Indian reaction. In a tweet, Khan expressed his hope that the dispute could be ended, even if that meant turning to the U.S.
“Surprised by reaction of India to President Trump’s offer of mediation to bring Pakistan and India to dialogue table for resolving Kashmir conflict which has held subcontinent hostage for 70 years,” said Khan. “Generations of Kashmiris have suffered and are suffering daily and need conflict resolution.”
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