–US president says will talk to Modi about Kashmir lockdown but can mediate only if India agrees
–Imran says Trump has a major responsibility in ending humanitarian crisis in IOK, says India will only listen to US
–Pakistan to initiate talks with Iranian leadership at US’ behest, hopes to ease regional tensions
NEW YORK: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday urged US President Donald Trump to understand the seriousness of the Kashmir issue between Pakistan and India, as the latter reiterated his mediation offer, if both parties agree to it.
Briefing reporters about the talks held between Prime Minister Imran and President Trump on the sidelines of 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Prime Minister Imran had categorically told the US president that the situation in Kashmir and along the Line of Control (LoC) could soon turn into an all-out confrontation between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
“President Trump acknowledged Pakistan’s point of view and said that he would talk to India about the situation in Kashmir,” Qureshi said.
The foreign minister said that President Trump had also mandated Prime Minister Imran to act as a mediator in the Iran crisis.
“Pakistan does not want to see any conflict in its neighbouring countries, therefore, Prime Minister Imran will initiate talks with the Iranian leadership to ease the tensions,” said Qureshi.
Earlier, addressing a press talk with Imran, 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.
“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,” he added.
Trump was then asked about his opinion on the lockdown in IOK. Instead of answering the question put up by a Pakistani reporter, Trump started praising the journalist.
“He is a good reporter. Where do you find these reporters?” he asked PM Imran.
Trump said he has a “very good relationship” with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as with Prime Minister Imran. He said that he has never failed as an arbitrator in the past and would be available to help if asked.
Avoiding a direct answer to a question about United Nations (UN) resolutions on Kashmir, Trump reiterated that he is ready to play his role in South Asia if both Pakistan and India are willing.
Asked whether he is concerned about the human rights situation in occupied Kashmir, Trump said, “Sure. I would 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 is really smart and good for both.
It is pertinent to mention here that Trump and Modi exchanged warm words of friendship in Texas at a rare mass rally for the foreign leader. Around 50,000 people gathered for what Trump called was a “profoundly historic event” in Houston.
“There is always a solution and I do believe that there is a solution,” Trump said.
Speaking about the US-Pakistan relationship, Trump said, “People in my position have treated Pakistan very badly.”
“I trust Pakistan but people before me did not, but they did not know what they were doing,” he said in response to a question.
“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.”
Referring to Afghanistan, Trump said that he had a great discussion with PM Imran on dialogue with Taliban, situation in Afghanistan and regional peace. He said that they also discussed enhancing the bilateral trade volume between the two countries which presently stands at lower level.
‘IT’S US’ RESPONSIBILITY TO BROKER PEACE’:
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 that 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,” he cautioned.
Answering a question, Trump termed Iran as the “number one state of terror in the world”.
He said that Iran is “doing very poorly”. He added that 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.
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 Pakistan and India 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.
In the weeks since Kashmir’s lockdown, hundreds of elected politicians, activists and trade unionists have been imprisoned or put under “house arrest”. Hundreds of thousands of young men, including minors, have been arrested in night raids by the police, with many transported to jails outside the state.
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.