I offered to help India, Pakistan with arbitration, mediation on Kashmir: Trump

New York: US President Donald Trump said he discussed the issue of Kashmir with the leaders of India and Pakistan during his meetings with them and offered to help with arbitration or mediation to the two nuclear-armed countries, who have to work it out.

Trump, addressing reporters here Wednesday, said he has had “very productive conversations” with 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.”

He added 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.

Trump met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a bilateral meeting Tuesday on the sidelines of the UNGA for 40 minutes, and a day earlier he met Pakistan PM Imran Khan.

Trump and Modi’s meeting was their fourth since Modi came to power for a second term in May this year. A White House readout said Trump “encouraged” Modi to improve relations with Pakistan and fulfil his promise to better the lives of the Kashmiri people.

India maintains Kashmir is a bilateral issue and no third party has any role in it.

Asked about Trump’s remarks, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “Our position is very clear”. “I think it has been articulated by the prime minister earlier. It was articulated yesterday by the foreign secretary so that position remains,” he said.

“If you look at what he (foreign secretary) said yesterday, he said that India and Pakistan should both agree for any kind of mediation or arbitration,” 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,” Gokhale had said.

He had also said that Modi explained in detail to 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 the menace.

Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue after India withdrew the special status of J&K on August 5 but New Delhi has asserted the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has written to the UN Secretary General and President of the UN Security Council, making his country’s legal case on the Kashmir issue. Qureshi, in his letter to UN chief Antonio Guterres and UNSC President Vasily Nebenzya, said the Indian action aimed at bringing about a demographic change” in Kashmir.

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.

Both Modi and Khan are scheduled to address the UN General Assembly this week.