MOVING swiftly to counter the diplomatic embarrassment caused by President Donald Trump’s flub on Kashmir and assuage an upset New Delhi, the US administration clarified that Kashmir is very much a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, even as US Democrats apologised to India’s envoy for the US President’s “amateurish claim” about Kashmir. India strongly rejected Trump’s claim, made in front of visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had requested him to mediate in Kashmir.
“No such claim was made,” India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in Parliament. As Trump’s statement set of a diplomatic maelstrom - with India angry, while Pakistan was jubilant, the US administration stepped in to set things straight. Acting Assistant Secretary Alice Wells clarified that the US administration welcomes India and Pakistan sitting down to resolve the “bilateral” issue and the “US stands ready to assist”.
In stating that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, echoed India’s stand on the subject. “While Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss, the Trump administration welcomes #Pakistan and #India sitting down and the United States stands ready to assist,” Wells tweeted. Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee spoke with Indian Ambassador to the US, Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Tuesday to apologise for Trump’s statement.
“Everyone who knows anything about foreign policy in South Asia knows that India consistently opposes third-party mediation (regarding) Kashmir,” Congressman Brad Sherman of California tweeted. “Everyone knows that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would never suggest such a thing. Trump’s statement is amateurish and delusional. And embarrassing,” he wrote. Sherman, a Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in a subsequent tweet that he had apologised to the Indian ambassador for Trump’s remarks.
Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel also pushed back against Trump’s suggestion to mediate in the Kashmir issue and told the Indian envoy in a phone call that the US would stay out of the disagreement. Engel, a New York Democrat, reiterated his support for the longstanding US position on Kashmir -- that India and Pakistan should hold a dialogue over it, and that other countries, including the US, should not dictate the “pace and scope” of that dialogue, according to a readout of the conversation. Engel told Shringla that he believed Pakistan “must first take concrete and irreversible steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistan’s soil.”