Trump says ready to mediate on Kashmir if both Pakistan, India want

Updated September 23, 2019

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US President Donald Trump (R) and Prime Minister Imran Khan hold a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 23. — AFP
US President Donald Trump (R) and Prime Minister Imran Khan hold a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 23. — AFP
US President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Prime Minister Imran Khan during a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 23. — AFP
US President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Prime Minister Imran Khan during a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 23. — AFP

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday met US President Donald Trump in New York City ahead of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly opening on September 24.

Addressing a joint press conference alongside Prime Minister Imran ahead of their meeting, Trump once again offered to mediate between Pakistan and India on the Kashmir issue.

"If I can help, I will certainly do that," he said. "If both (Pakistan and India) want, I am ready, willing and able to do it."

The US president noted that Kashmir's was a complex issue that had been going on for a long time, but emphasised that arbitration could not be carried out unless both parties involved welcome it.

Trump said he has a "very good relationship" with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as with Prime Minister Imran. He said he has never failed as an arbitrator in the past and would be available to help if asked.

Avoiding to directly answer a question about UN resolutions on Kashmir, Trump reiterated that he is ready to play his role in South Asia if both India and Pakistan are willing.

Speaking about the US-Pakistan relationship, Trump said: "People in my position have treated Pakistan very badly."

"I trust Pakistan but people before me didn't, but they didn't know what they were doing," he said in response to a question.

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney (L), National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien (C) and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner (R) attend a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan in New York. — AFP
White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney (L), National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien (C) and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner (R) attend a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan in New York. — AFP

"I trust this gentleman right here," he added, pointing to Prime Minister Imran.

Trump said he has a lot of Pakistani friends in New York who are "smart" and "great negotiators".

Commenting on Pakistan's progress to counter terrorism, the US president said: "I have heard they have made great progress and I think he (Imran) wants to make great progress."

Asked whether he is concerned about the human rights situation in occupied Kashmir, Trump said: "Sure. I'd like to see everything work out. I want everybody to be treated well."

Without specifying, Trump said he had heard a "very aggressive" statement from Modi on Sunday, adding: "I hope they (Pakistan and India) are going to be able to come together and do something that's really smart and good for both.

"There is always a solution and I do believe that there is a solution."

In his remarks on Kashmir, Prime Minister Imran said Trump heads the most powerful country in the world, which has a responsibility to resolve disputes.

"We look to the US to put out flames in the world," he added.

He said even though Trump had offered to mediate, India was refusing to talk to Pakistan. "In this situation, I feel that this is the beginning of a crisis. I honestly feel that the crisis is going to get much bigger [considering] what is happening in Kashmir," cautioned.

Answering a question, Trump termed Iran as the "number one state of terror in the world".

He said Iran is "doing very poorly". He added when he took office, "Iran was a real threat to the entire Middle East and maybe beyond. And now they are having very very big difficulties to put it mildly."

The meeting — which started after 10pm and is reported to be the first of two between the leaders during the UN session — follows a "Howdy, Modi!" rally in Houston on Sunday in which the US president and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared a stage and showered each other with praise.

Trump and Imran last met in July at the Oval office. During their first one-on-one interaction, the US president had expressed his willingness to mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve the 70-year-old Kashmir dispute — an offer he has repeated but has been rejected by India.

Tensions between India and Pakistan reached a feverish pitch on August 5, when New Delhi unilaterally annexed occupied Kashmir, revoking a constitutional guarantee that gave a special status to the disputed territory. A strict lockdown and communications blackout was imposed in the region that has snapped off ordinary people's internet and mobile telephone service across much of occupied Kashmir. It has now entered its 50th day.

President Trump’s recent comments on Kashmir and India-Pakistan relations have triggered speculations about an indirect dialogue between the two South Asian neighbours during the UNGA, with Washington playing the role of a facilitator.

Last week, President Trump told reporters at a White House briefing that “a lot of progress” has been made in defusing India-Pakistan tensions and his statement has strengthened these speculations.

After it was confirmed that Trump would meet both Indian and Pakistani prime ministers before and during the UNGA, diplomatic observers in Washington said the possibility that he may use the meetings to discuss the situation in Kashmir is stronger than ever before.

Nobel Prize

When told that he could get a Nobel prize if he helped resolve the Kashmir dispute, Mr Trump said: “I would get a Nobel prize for a lot of things, if they give it out fairly, which they don’t.”

Mr Trump said he did not know why one of the world’s most prestigious accolades was awarded to his predecessor in the White House Barack Obama in 2009.

“They gave one to Obama immediately upon his ascent to the presidency and he had no idea why he got it. You know what? That was the only thing I agreed with him on,” Mr Trump said.

He said that previous US presidents had treated Pakistan unfairly, but he was not going to do so.

He also emphasised the need to “double, triple and even quadruple” bilateral trade between the United States and Pakistan.

'Mission Kashmir'

Prime Minister Imran, who has declared himself an ambassador of Kashmiris, spent the second day of his seven-day visit to the United Nations briefing US lawmakers, scholars, human rights activists and the media on the repercussions of the Indian annexation of the disputed Kashmir valley.

The lawmakers who called on the prime minister on Sunday included US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Chair­man of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham.

Senator Graham was also among those four US senators who wrote a letter to President Trump last week, asking him to take immediate action to end deepening humanitarian crisis in occupied Kashmir.

Premier's engagements

Ahead of his meeting with Trump, Prime Minister Imran on Monday spoke at an event at the think tank, Council on Foreign Relations. He also addressed the UN Climate Change Summit and the Summit on Universal Health Care.

The premier today also held a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He is also expected to meet China's Vice President Wang Qishan.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also called on Prime Minister Imran in New York today.

On Saturday, the premier met with the founder the Kashmir Study Group Farooq Kathwari during which he urged Kathwari to continue informing the world about India's illegal occupation and human rights violations in occupied Kashmir so that they could see the real face of Modi's government.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, right, speaks during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at UN headquarters on Monday. From left are Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg. — AP
Prime Minister Imran Khan, right, speaks during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at UN headquarters on Monday. From left are Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg. — AP

Read: PM Imran meets US envoy Khalilzad, Senator Graham in New York

On Sunday, US special envoy for Afghan peace process Zalmay Khalilzad had a meeting with the prime minister. The prime minister also met Amnesty International’s secretary general Komi Naidoo and discussed with him the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

Prime Minister Imran is due to address the UN General Assembly on September 27. He has already announced that he will highlight the Kashmir issue in his address, exposing the ethical and legal bankruptcy of India’s annexation of occupied Kashmir.