Political firestorm erupts in Parliament; opp demands Modi’s clarification
STATE TIMES NEWS New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi made no request to US President Donald Trump to mediate on the Kashmir issue with Pakistan, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday amid a massive controversy over the US leader’s claim. He said all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan can be discussed only bilaterally. “I would like to categorically state that no such request has been made by the Prime Minister to the US President,” he said after Congress and other opposition parties raised the issue in the House. The minister said it has been the consistent position of India that all outstanding issues with Pakistan can be discussed only bilaterally. “Any engagement with Pakistan will require end to cross border terrorism,” he said, adding Shimla and Lahore accords provide the basis for resolution of all issues bilaterally. Opposition parties were, however, not satisfied by the statement of the External Affairs Minister and wanted the Prime Minister to come to the House and clarify. This led to heated exchange between opposition benches and the Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, who adjourned proceedings. Meanwhile, a massive political firestorm broke out over Donald Trump’s stunning claim with the Opposition demanding a clarification from Modi even as the government asserted that no such request was made and all issues with Pakistan will have to be resolved bilaterally. The issue rocked both houses of Parliament with the opposition, led by Congress, demanding that the prime minister himself should clarify since Trump’s comments were “serious”. The External Affairs Ministry was quick to deny Trump’s startling claim on Monday while strongly reiterating India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan will have to be discussed bilaterally, including the Kashmir issue. Not satisfied with the Jaishankar’s statement, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that a “weak” foreign ministry denial wouldn’t do and Modi must tell the nation what transpired in the meeting between him and the US president.
“President Trump says PM Modi asked him to mediate between India & Pakistan on Kashmir! If true, PM Modi has betrayed India’s interests & 1972 Shimla Agreement,” Gandhi tweeted.
Opposition leaders also held a meeting and sought an explanation from Modi in both the Houses on Trump’s statement.
Various opposition leaders addressed a press conference on the issue.
Flanked by opposition leaders, including CPI’s D Raja, NCP’s Majeed Menon, DMK’s Tiruchi Siva, SP’s Ramgopal Yadav and AAP’s Sanjay Singh, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said his party was ready to believe the prime minister’s side of the story but he should clarify the issue on the floor of the House.
Attacking the Opposition, the BJP termed as “inappropriate” and “irresponsible” their demand and accused them of putting “politics above national interest”.
“The way Congress and some opposition parties have protested in Rajya Sabha and created a disorder just to demand the prime minister’s statement is condemnable… They are putting politics above national interest,” senior party leader Prakash Javadekar told reporters.
As Trump’s comments risked straining ties with New Delhi, the US State Department in Washington said Kashmir is a “bilateral” issue between India and Pakistan, and the US “welcomes” the two countries “sitting down” for talks.
“While Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss, the Trump administration welcomes Pakistan and India sitting down and the United States stands ready to assist,” a State Department spokesperson said.
Modi is slated to visit the US in September.
Hours after Trump’s remarks, influential Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman tweeted that he apologised to Indian envoy in the US Harsh Shringla for the president’s “amateurish and embarrassing mistake”.
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