President Donald Trump in a phone call with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, called for reducing tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.
The White House released a readout of the call today (Aug. 19, 2019), saying the two leaders discussed regional developments and the U.S.-India strategic partnership.
“The President conveyed the importance of reducing tensions between India and Pakistan and maintaining peace in the region,” the White House said.
“The two leaders further discussed how they will continue to strengthen United States-India economic ties through increased trade, and they look forward to meeting again soon,” the readout said.
The conversation comes in the wake of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following the Modi government’s decision to revoke Article 370 and 35A, which in the past accorded a special status to Jammu & Kashmir within the Indian union.
The Indian Prime Minister’s Office tweeted out its view of the phone dialogue between the two leaders, highlighting that the thirty-minute conversation was dominated by issues of trade, but also “covered bilateral and regional matters and was marked by the warmth and cordiality which characterises the relations between the two leaders.”
“In the context of the regional situation, PM @narendramodi stated that extreme rhetoric and incitement to anti-India violence by certain leaders in the region was not conducive to peace,” the PMO’s office tweeted. “PM highlighted the importance of creating an environment free from terror and violence and eschewing cross-border terrorism without exception.”
Modi referred to their meeting in Osaka on the margins of the G-20 summit in end-June earlier this year, and expressed the hope that the top officials of two sides would meet at an early date to discuss bilateral trade prospects for mutual benefit.
Pakistan has made repeated attempts to internationalize what New Delhi considers a domestic issue. China, a Pakistan-ally, took up the matter in the United Nations Security Council, where the issue was last discussed in 1965.
On the same day following his talk with Modi, Trump called Khan again to impress upon him the “need to reduce tensions and moderate rhetoric with India over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir,” the White House said in a statement. “The President reaffirmed the need to avoid escalation of the situation, and urged restraint on both sides,” the statement said.
Although the UNSC meeting took place behind closed doors the U.S., Germany and France stalwartly stood behind India’s position that revoking certain articles of its own constitution was an internal matter. No joint statement was issued following the meeting.
A CNN report noted that a UN diplomat told its correspondent the UNSC countries “disagreed on wording of a statement,” and that “France, Germany and the United States objected to language that might have broadened the issue beyond the possibility of future bilateral talks between India and Pakistan.”
“The priority must go to bilateral dialogues,” another unidentified diplomat told CNN.
Speaking at an impromptu press briefing following the closed door meeting, India’s Ambassador to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, said “our national position was, and remains, that matters related to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, are entirely an internal matter of India…The recent decisions taken by the Government of India and our legislative bodies are intended to ensure that good governance is promoted, socio-economic development is enhanced for our people in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.” He also said the government was taking measures to return normalcy to the Valley and that “India remains committed to ensure that the situation there remains calm and peaceful. We are committed to all the agreements that we have signed on this issue.”
Without naming Pakistan, Akbaruddin said, “of particular concern is that one state is using terminology of jihad against and promoting violence in India, including by their leaders,” in effect naming statements by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s bellicose statement about dangers of nuclear war and Hindu nationalism.
Akbaruddin also said India was committed to the principle “that all issues between India and Pakistan, as well as India and any other country, will be resolved bilaterally, peacefully, and in a manner that behooves normal inter-state relations between countries.”
Pakistan’s Ambassador Maleeha Lodi said the very fact of the UNSC calling a meeting meant Kashmir presented an international dispute.
The Chinese Ambassador spoke to reporters after the UNSC meetings urging both India and Pakistan to “refrain from taking any unilateral action which might further aggravate was was an already “tense and very dangerous” situation.
Notably, President Trump spoke to Prime Minister Khan before the UNSC closed door meeting, according to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, according to a CNN report. The White House spokesman told CNN that Trump conveyed the “importance of India and Pakistan reducing tensions through bilateral dialogue regarding the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.”
The status of J&K has been changed into a Union Territory with Ladhak becoming another Union Territory, following the Article 370 revocation. The region remains under heavy security control.