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Kashmir a bilateral issue between India, Pak: US

Washington/New Delhi: The Trump administration has 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.

“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,” a State Department spokesperson said in response to a question if Donald Trump’s remarks reflect a change in the country’s policy on Kashmir.

India has already rejected Trump’s claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought his mediation on the Kashmir issue.

For more than a decade, the US has consistently insisted that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and it is for the two countries to decide on the nature and scope of the dialogue.

“We believe the foundation for any successful dialogue between India and Pakistan is based on Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists on its territory. These actions are in line with Prime Minister (Imran) Khan’s stated commitments, and Pakistan’s international obligations,” the State Department spokesperson said.

“We will continue to support efforts that reduce tensions and create an environment conducive for dialogue. This first and foremost means tackling the menace of terrorism. As the President indicated, we stand ready to assist,” the spokesperson said in response to a question.

Meanwhile, a massive political firestorm broke out on Tuesday over Trump’s stunning claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir dispute with the Opposition demanding a clarification from Modi even as the government asserted that no such request was made to the US President and all issues with Pakistan will have to be resolved bilaterally.

The issue rocked both Houses of Parliament with the opposition, led by Congress, demanding that the Prime Minister himself should clarify since Trump’s comments were “serious”.

The External Affairs Ministry was quick to deny Trump’s startling claim on Monday while strongly reiterating India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan will have to be discussed bilaterally, including the Kashmir issue.

As the opposition mounted a concerted attack on the Modi government, both inside and outside Parliament, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in Rajya Sabha that Modi had never made any such request to Trump. “Any engagement with Pakistan will require an end to cross-border terrorism,” he asserted, adding that the Simla and Lahore accords signed between India and Pakistan provide the basis for resolution of all issues bilaterally.

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