Congress' remark on Kashmir 'mediation' uncalled for; attempt to pit Modi against Trump will only fuel nationalistic fervour

US president Donald Trump may have attained momentary glory in Pakistan when he claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had requested him to mediate between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute and that he would love to be the arbitrator.

However, within hours after the US president, supposedly the most powerful man on the earth, made the remark, he realised that while talking about India and its prime minister, he should mark his words carefully, make better homework and not lie on the basis of the figment of his imagination.

 Congress remark on Kashmir mediation uncalled for; attempt to pit Modi against Trump will only fuel nationalistic fervour

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Donald Trump. AP

The Indian establishment immediately issued a forceful snub, demolishing Trump's fancied idea of playing the "mediator or arbitrator" on Kashmir. If Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Ravish Kumar’s statement was not enough, External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar gave a suo sponte statement in the Rajya Sabha and during a brief discussion in the Lok Sabha.

"I categorically state that no such request was made by Prime Minister Modi to the US president,” Jaishankar said.

To place additional emphasis that no such conversation ever took place between Modi and Trump, the minister repeated this sentence.

India’s position implied that Trump was either lying or was too naïve to believe that he could actually arbitrate on Kashmir. Or, the US president completely misunderstood a conversation he may have had with Modi in some other context in Osaka, or, he was too amateurish who lived in his own make-believe world.

The guiding thought behind Jaishankar’s statement in both the Houses of the Parliament was twofold — address domestic concerns over the issue and reassure that there has not been and there couldn’t be a dilution in India’s age-old policy that outstanding issues between India and Pakistan are engaged only bilaterally, and that no mediation from a third party was required.

Secondly, give a strong message to all foreign nations, most importantly to the US and Pakistan, that India is strong enough to deal with its problems on its own and any dialogue with its eastern neighbour was conditional to ending cross border terrorism and demolishing terror infrastructure on Pakistani soil.

Soon after Trump made the controversial statement, it was clear that this issue would be raised by the Opposition in the Parliament. The initial concerns were justified because from what Trump said, the Modi government had made a clear and undesirable departure from the position India has maintained for the last 70 years. The Modi government owed an explanation to the nation.

But the MEA's statement, within an hour after Trump's remark, made it clear that Modi and his government's position remained consistent with what had been India’s stated policy for decades. But, the Congress seemed to be unconvinced. Its leaders mistakenly believed that they had suddenly found an issue to hammer the prime minister and get something to energise the party's thoroughly demoralised rank and file. They tried to disrupt both the Houses of the Parliament saying that they wouldn’t accept the external affairs minister’s statement and wanted the prime minister to say on the floor of the House that Trump was lying.

The party which had been in power for close to sixty years didn’t care to think that he external affair minister’s statement on the floor of the two Houses, and that too on an issue as critical as Kashmir, couldn’t have been without the express approval of the prime minister. It was a statement made by the minister on behalf of the government. The prime minister making a statement in the Parliament, assuming that he broadly says the same thing which the foreign minister said, however, would have different implications. It would turn the controversy into a straight Modi versus Trump fight.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is holidaying abroad, shot off a hard-hitting tweet, making a sweeping remark that the Ministry of External Affairs is “a weak foreign ministry” and that “PM Modi has betrayed India’s interests and the 1972 Shimla Agreement". These remarks were uncalled for.

Gandhi was also unmindful of what his own party colleagues like Shashi Tharoor and Milind Deora said on the issue. Tharoor categorically asserted that the prime minister couldn’t have said anything like this, whereas Deora urged all parties in India to rise above politics and welcome the MEA's statement for the sake of India’s national interest.

Former American ambassador to India Richard Verma told PTI that "The (US) president did a lot of damage today. His comments on Kashmir and Afghanistan were way off the mark."

Congressman Brad Sherman blasted Trump in a series of tweets, even saying that he apologised to India's Ambassador to the US for Trump's "amateurish and embarrassing mistake".

Edward Luce, the US national editor of Financial Times was even more forthcoming and unsparing to Trump in his tweets.

In the domestic political scenario, Congress and its friends in Trinamool Congress and the Left should realise that the nation is willing to believe the strong rebuttal — written and oral — issued by the foreign ministry and the foreign minister. Congress’ aggression will only end up helping Modi in further generating nationalistic fervour.

Updated Date: Jul 23, 2019 19:38:10 IST