July 23, 2019
India rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to help resolve the decades-long Kashmir conflict amid Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Washington on July 22.
During a meeting with Khan at the White House, Trump said he “would love to be a mediator.”
The U.S. president then claimed that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate in the conflict that has seen nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India fight three wars, two of them over Kashmir, since gaining independence from the British in 1947.
“No such request has been made by Prime Minister to the U.S. president,” Raveesh Kumar, India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesman, tweeted soon afterward.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump has held out the possibility of restoring aid to Pakistan as Islamabad is “helping us a lot now” to find a way out of the war in neighboring Afghanistan.
Speaking after a meeting with Khan on July 22, Trump said Pakistan could make a “make a big difference” in ending the nearly 18-year war with the Taliban.
“I don’t think Pakistan respected the United States” in the past, said Trump, speaking at a White House meeting with Khan. But “they are helping us a lot now.”
The United States has long accused Pakistan of providing “havens” for militant groups fighting in India and Afghanistan, and Trump has cut financial and military aid to Islamabad.
Trump said he had a plan that could win the war in Afghanistan “in a week,” but it would come at a tremendous cost to life so he’d rather work with allies in the region to “extricate” U.S. troops from the military conflict.
“If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people,” Trump said.
“I have plans on Afghanistan that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth. It would be gone. It would be over in — literally in 10 days. And I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to go that route,” he added, giving no details of what the plan would entail.
Khan said he “looked forward” to talks with Trump over the next few days and said he wanted to ensure there was a common “understanding between the two countries.”
It is the first time Khan, a former cricket star who won election last year, has made an official visit to the U.S. capital.
Khan’s visit comes amid frayed relations with the United States, which is seeking to bring stability to Afghanistan and end the war there. The assistance of Pakistan, which neighbors Afghanistan, is key to achieving a resolution, U.S. officials have said.
In a move some analysts view as a concession to Washington ahead of the trip, Pakistan arrested Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of the terrorist group that carried out the deadly 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India. It is about the seventh time that Pakistani forces have arrested Saeed.
“We would look to see that Pakistan is taking sustained action and actually prosecuting these people. Quite frankly, the previous arrests of Saeed haven’t made a difference,” the senior official said.
In addition to locking up individuals it considers terrorists, the Trump administration will also be asking Khan to free political prisoners, including Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani physician who helped the United States identify Osama bin Laden.
Trump, who is running for re-election in 2020, has promised to pull out American troops.
The Trump administration will also press Pakistan on press freedoms and permitting non-government organizations (NGOs) to freely operate. Islamabad deregistered 18 NGOs.
“We think that the impacts of deregistering them will have a deleterious impact on their democratic institutions and civil society,” the senior administration official said.
Commercials talks, including energy, will also be on Trump’s agenda with Khan. The United States is interested in a trade mission to Islamabad to discuss supplies of liquefied natural gas and gas infrastructure development, the senior official said.
The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of natural gas and will account for about half the growth in global gas exports over the next six years, according to the International Energy Agency.
With reporting by Reuters, DPA, and AFP