Kashmir mediation: Official records reaffirm Narendra Modi made no such request to Donald Trump on sidelines of G20 Osaka summit

In the flurry of diplomatic activity that followed Donald Trump’s remarks on Kashmir mediation, both the sides checked their official records of discussion at the Osaka summit and found no mention of what the US president had claimed

FP Staff July 24, 2019 17:23:07 IST
Kashmir mediation: Official records reaffirm Narendra Modi made no such request to Donald Trump on sidelines of G20 Osaka summit
  • Donald Trump sparked a major controversy when he proclaimed that during his recent meeting with Narendra Modi, the latter had asked him to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue

  • Reportedly, both the sides checked their official records of discussion at the Osaka summit and found no mention of what Trump claimed

  • The US is believed to have informally confirmed to the Indian side that neither the US Department of State nor the White House had any of Trump’s claims on official record

On Monday, US president Donald Trump sparked a major controversy when during his interaction with Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan, he proclaimed that during his recent meeting with Narendra Modi, the India prime minister had asked him to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday "categorically denied" in the Parliament that Modi had discussed anything to this effect with the US president.

"I hope, in view of my very specific and categorical responses, that there is no confusion in the mind of anybody on this matter,” he said. However, the Opposition has demanded that the prime minister himself should address the House and clarify his stance in front of all the members.

Before the matter was raised in the Parliament, the Indian and US authorities had already confirmed among themselves that there was no record of any such possible conversation between the two world leaders on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan — where the two leaders last met. This confirmation was borne out of the official records of discussions between the Indian and US governments, which were checked soon after questions were raised on Trump's claim on Monday night.

According to reports, in the flurry of diplomatic activity that followed Trump’s dramatic remarks, both the sides checked their official records of discussion at the Osaka summit and found no mention of what Trump had claimed regarding Kashmir. The US is believed to have informally confirmed to the Indian side that neither the US Department of State nor the White House had any of Trump’s claims on official record. On the other hand, back home, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) found that there was no remote off-the-cuff talk on Kashmir to even set off a misunderstanding between the two leaders, The Economic Times reported.

Kashmir mediation Official records reaffirm Narendra Modi made no such request to Donald Trump on sidelines of G20 Osaka summit

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

The US Department of State tried to contain the situtation in its statement, saying, “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."

Democrat leader in the House of Representatives Brad Sherman who is also a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee — and is said to be aware of Modi's tough line on Kashmir — had one of the strongest reaction to Trump's remarks from the American side.

“Everyone who knows anything about foreign policy in South Asia knows that India consistently opposes third-party mediation re Kashmir. Everyone knows prime minister Modi would never suggest such a thing. Trump’s statement in amateurish and delusional (sic)," he tweeted on Tuesday morning.

Modi's hard stance on the issue is substantiated by his actions, for instance, in 2015, he had delivered a very tough message to former US Secretary of State John Kerry when the latter tried to broach the subject of Kashmir and India-Pakistan dialogue on the margins of his visit to the 'Vibrant Gujarat' summit. The prime minister had drawn his 'red line' on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism to the Obama Administration and the matter never came up between the two sides thereafter.

Therefore, Trump's claim was hard to believe for many given that there was no other occasion in Osaka like a one-on-one or informal pull-aside between the two leaders to raise the possibility, or doubt, of the Kashmir issue having cropped up in any unrecorded conversation. As per reports, the half-an-hour long meeting between Modi and Trump was formal and in the presence of other officials who were part of the delegation from both the sides. The issues discussed were broadly on India-US trade tensions, the Iran issue and how India has reduced imports from Iran at a huge economic cost, apart from talks on the 5G challenge and bilateral defence ties.

Briefing the media after the meeting, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had said four issues were discussed — Iran, 5G, trade and defence. Trump’s daughter and advisor, Ivanka Trump, who was also a part of the meeting, too released a video clip where she spelt out the issues discussed.

In its readout post the meeting, the White House said: “The path to a strong and enduring partnership between Pakistan and the US lies in working together to find a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan. Pakistan has taken some steps against terror groups operating within Pakistan. It is vital Pakistan take action to shut down all groups once and for all.”

The other meetings involving Trump and Modi included the JAI (Japan, America and India) trilateral in which Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was present and the three leaders discussed the need to pool in resources to build connectivity projects together, said reports. The two leaders also sat down for a dinner where they both had a “good conversation”, sometimes aided by the official interpreting for them, reports said.

The Indian Express' report states that, according to standard diplomatic practice, the records of discussion of the bilateral meeting are prepared by officials present and those for the conversation over dinner is prepared by the interpreter-diplomat, and in case the two leaders have a conversation with no aide by their side, they brief the officials on the conversation. In all scenarios, records of discussions – called “RoDs”, as per diplomatic jargon, are maintained.

Further, the report says that with the White House and the US State Department not contradicting the MEA and Jaishankar’s statement, the government is of the view that the prime minister's statement on the controversy is not needed since that can "escalate matters between the two countries".

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