NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday denied US President Donald Trump’s claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate in the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan.

“No such request was made by the prime minister to the US president,” External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told the Rajya Sabha.

He reiterated that all issues with Pakistan would be resolved only through bilateral means and engagement with the neighbouring nation will be considered only “if it stops cross-border terrorism”.

Foreign minister issues statement in Rajya Sabha; matter raised in Lok Sabha as well

The issue was raised by Congress MP Anand Sharma and communist deputy D. Raja. Mr Sharma insisted Mr Modi should inform the house what he told Mr Trump. And Mr Raja sought to know if the government had changed its position on Kashmir.

“I would like to reiterate that India’s position is that all issues with Pakistan will be discussed only bilaterally and no third party will be involved in mediation. Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross-border terrorism,” Mr Jaishankar said.

He added that the 1972 Shimla Agreement and the 1999 Lahore Declaration would continue to be the only basis to resolve all issues between the two nations.

With the opposition members insisting on a reply from the prime minister himself, the house was adjourned briefly.

The issue of Mr Trump’s offer to Prime Minister Imran Khan to mediate on the Kashmir dispute was raised in the Lok Sabha as well, with Congress member Kodikunnil Suresh giving a notice that sought an adjournment motion. Congress members raised slogans as soon as the house assembled.

“India has bowed before the US,” Congress party’s house leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said. Objecting to his remarks, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said Mr Jaishankar would make a statement in the Lok Sabha.

Mr Trump on Monday said he had offered to mediate the decades-long Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, as Mr Modi had asked him to do so.

“I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject and he actually said ‘would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator’, I said ‘where’, He said ‘Kashmir’. Because this has been going on for many, many years,” Mr Trump had said at the White House, where he was hosting Prime Minister Khan.

India’s external affairs ministry had promptly refuted Mr Trump’s claim. “We have seen [Mr Trump’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 Narendra Modi to US President,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Monday.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2019