New Delhi/Washington: Amid a huge political storm, Parliament saw an uproar by Opposition members and repeated disruptions and adjournments on Tuesday over remarks made by US President Donald Trump regarding mediation on the Kashmir issue, even as external affairs minister S. Jaishankar informed both Houses that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had never made any such request for mediation to the US President.
The US President had on Monday claimed that Mr Modi had asked him to play the role of a mediator on Kashmir. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in a sharp tweet, alleged if President Trump’s remarks were true, then Mr Modi had "betrayed" India's interests, also terming the “foreign ministry denial” as ‘weak’.
Mr Jaishankar, in a reaction to President Trump's remarks, told Parliament: “I would like to categorically state that no such request has been made by the Prime Minister to the US President. I repeat, no such request has been made by the Prime Minister to the US President.”
Mr Jaishankar added: "I would reiterate that it has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan can be discussed only bilaterally. Any engagement with Pakistan will require an end to cross-border terrorism. The Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration provide the basis for resolution of all issues bilaterally."
The Trump administration also launched a damage control exercise after the President's remarks about mediation on Kashmir, with the state department on Tuesday saying it was a "bilateral" issue between India and Pakistan, and the US "welcomes" the two countries "sitting down" for talks. It also said Pakistan taking "sustained and irreversible" steps against terrorism is key to a successful dialogue with India. An influential Democratic Congressman on Tuesday also said he had apologised to India's envoy in the US for President Trump's "embarrassing" remarks on Kashmir. "I just apologised to Indian ambassador Harsh Shringla for Trump's amateurish and embarrassing mistake," Congressman Brad Sherman tweeted.
In a clarification to the US President's remarks that was issued around midnight Tuesday, the MEA spokesman had said: "We have seen President Trump's remarks to the press that he is ready to mediate, if requested by India and Pakistan, on the Kashmir issue. No such request has been made by Prime Minister (Modi) to the US President. It has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally. Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross-border terrorism. The Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India and Pakistan bilaterally."
In controversial remarks in Washington in the presence of visiting Pakistan PM Imran Khan late Monday night, US President Trump said: "I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject (Kashmir). And he actually said, 'would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?' I said, 'where'? He (Modi) said 'Kashmir'." President Trump added: "Because this has been going on for many, many years. I am surprised that how long. It has been going on (for long)," he said, with Pakistan PM Khan responding that it was 70 years.
President Trump had said: "I think they (Indians) would like to see it resolved. I think you would like to see it resolved. And if I can help, I would love to be a mediator. It should be... We have two incredible countries that are very, very smart with very smart leadership, (and they) can't solve a problem like that. But if you would want me to mediate or arbitrate, I would be willing to do that." He added: "So all those issues should be resolved. So, he (Modi) has to ask me the same thing. So maybe we'll speak to him. Or I'll speak to him and we'll see if we can do something."
Pandemonium in RS: Opposition wants PM Modi to respond
The Rajya Sabha witnessed repeated disruptions on Tuesday as Congress, CPI(M) and AAP members created an uproar and demanded Prime Minister Narendra Modi make a statement on the issue. The Rajya Sabha was adjourned till noon after heated exchanges between the Chairman and Opposition members over Mr Trump’s statement on Kashmir mediation. In the afternoon, as soon as the House resumed at 2 pm, deputy chairman Harivansh made an announcement about a cultural event in Parliament premises by physically challenged persons. Thereafter, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman moved the Appropriation Bill 2019 and the Finance Bill 2019.
Raising a point of order, Congress leader Anand Sharma requested the deputy chairman to consider the notices given by him and other Opposition members seeking a statement by the Prime Minister in the House....