The Congress on Tuesday welcomed the government's reiteration of India's 'no third party involvement' stand on the Kashmir issue but asked why Prime Minister Narendra Modi is "mum" over US President Donald Trump's claim that the Indian leader asked him to mediate on the matter. India denied Trump's claim that Modi had asked him to mediate in resolving the Kashmir issue with Pakistan.
Trump's offer to mediate on the Kashmir issue came as he met Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House on Monday when the two leaders discussed a host of issues. Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, "We have seen @POTUS's remarks to the press that he is ready to mediate, if requested by India & Pakistan, on Kashmir issue. No such request has been made by PM @narendramodi to US President."
Reacting to the MEA's assertion, Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said reiteration of time tested line on 'no mediation on Kashmir' is welcome. The US President's remarks "relate to a meeting between him and PM Modi, wherein our PM had asked him to mediate", he said in a tweet.
"Why is PM 'mum' on what transpired between the two heads of states, more so when it affects our sovereignty?" Surjewala asked. In another tweet, he tagged the remarks of President Trump put out by the White House. "Now, 'Whitehouse' puts up @POTUS assertion in 'black & white' that PM Modi asked him to 'mediate on Kashmir'!" he said.
"When will our PM 'wake up' & call the bluff if President Trump is lying? Or Did PM Modi ask @POTUS to mediate?" Surjewala wondered. The Congress along with other opposition parties last night had demanded that Prime Minister Modi should clarify whether there has been a shift in India's position of no third party involvement in the Kashmir issue after Trump offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on the matter.
Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala had said India has never accepted third party mediation in Jammu and Kashmir. "To ask a foreign power to mediate in J&K by PM Modi is a sacrilegious betrayal of country's interests. Let PM answer to the Nation!" he had tweeted. In another tweet, Surjewala said "deeply disturbing and distressing" is the claim by Trump that PM Modi made a "request to him for mediation on Kashmir".
"No Indian PM has ever dared to breach the cardinal principle of 'no third party mediation' in terms of 1972 Simla Agreement. Why is PM mum?" he said. Kumar, in another tweet, said it has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally. "Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross border terrorism. The Shimla Agreement & the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India & Pakistan bilaterally," he said.
Trump, who is known to make inaccurate statements, claimed that Prime Minister Modi asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue. "I honestly don't think Trump has the slightest idea of what he's talking about. He has either not been briefed or not understood what (Prime Minister) Modi was saying or what India's position is on 3rd-party mediation. That said, MEA should clarify that Delhi has never sought his intercession," senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted earlier.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Monday wondered whether the Indian government will call the US President a liar or there has been a shift in India's position on third party involvement in dispute. "Personally I think @realDonaldTrump is talking out of his hat when he says @PMOIndia asked for US involvement in solving the Kashmir issue but I'd like to see @MEAIndia call Trump out on his claim," Abdullah tweeted.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury asked whether "our twitter-friendly PM" has the courage to rebut the US President who has made a public statement. "What does this say about our long-held position of sovereignty over the Indian state of J&K, as defined in the Simla Agreement?" he said. "India has always maintained its a bilateral issue, with no scope for third-party interference. What is this government upto?" Yechury asked. Khan welcomed Trump's remarks and said if the US agrees, prayers of more than a billion people will be with him. India maintains that the Kashmir issue is a bilateral one and no third party has any role. India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January of 2016 by Pakistan-based terrorists, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.