India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated New Delhi’s stand that any discussion with Pakistan that relates to Kashmir is a totally bilateral issue and did not require external mediation, including from the United States.
Modi was speaking at a press briefing on the sidelines of the G 7 meeting in Biarritz, France, where his meeting with Trump was the American President’s last bilateral today (Aug. 26. 2019). Trump lightened the mood at the Biarritz press briefing where Modi spoke through a translator, joking, “He (Modi) actually speaks great English – he just doesn’t want to talk to you,” at which point Modi guffawed and the two leaders clasped hands briefly. Modi tweeted out photos of that moment.
“Excellent meeting with@POTUS @realDonaldTrump ! We had useful discussions on bilateral matters. We agreed to address trade issues for mutual benefit soon. Looking forward to expand cooperation as large democracies for the benefit of our citizens and global peace and prosperity,” Modi tweeted.
At the pre-bilat press briefing, Modi emphasized that there are “many bilateral issues” between India and Pakistan. He also said he had told Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan that the two countries should jointly fight against poverty and on behalf of their countries. Asked if he wanted President Trump to mediate the conflict, Modi said, “all the issues are of bilateral nature.”
At the start of the briefing which preceded the bilateral meeting between the two leaders, Trump said “It’s great to be here with Prime Minister Modi,” adding the two leaders would be discussing trade and the military issues in the bilateral meeting.
President Trump said he “learned a lot about India” from Modi at dinner the night before. “Fascinating place. It’s a beautiful place,” he remarked.
Modi called Trump a “friend” and said it was a “very important meeting for me.” He thanked Trump for congratulating him after his recent election and said their two countries had “shared democratic values.”
Asked to clarify his position on mediating the conflict in Kashmir,
President Trump said: “The prime minister really feels he has it under control.” He said they spoke about Kashmir “at great length” last night.
The Modi government revoked the autonomous status of Jammu & Kashmir Aug. 5, turning the region into a Union Territory, and also creating a Union Territory of Ladhak, a step that has resulted in strong opposition within J&K, and required a heavy troop presence, as well as house arrest of political leaders, and some clashes with security forces. Pakistan has meanwhile attempted to internationalize the situation.
In a readout on what transpired at the bilateral meeting between Trump and Modi, the White House said, “The two leaders discussed ways to broaden their strategic partnership and greatly increase trade between the United States and India. President Trump reaffirmed the need for dialogue between India and Pakistan to reduce tensions and acknowledged India’s role as a critical partner in Afghanistan.”
During the briefing before the bilateral, President Trump was asked if his offer to mediate Kashmir, made last month during a meeting with Khan, was still on the table, said “I’m here” but thought the two countries could do it on their own, a pool report on the press briefing said.
Last month, President Trump said Prime Minister Modi had asked him to mediate Kashmir, riling New Delhi which immediately responded with a categorical denial.