Rajnath, Esper talk after Trump's calls to Modi, Khan

Despite calls between Delhi, Washington, India insists no scope for US mediation in settling row with Pakistan

Rajnath Singh and Esper spoke over the phone a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan received calls from US President Donald Trump.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his United States counterpart Mark Esper on Tuesday spoke over the phone and discussed about escalating tension in South Asia after Pakistan launched a war of words against India in the wake of New Delhi's recent decisions on Jammu and Kashmir. 

Singh and Esper spoke over the phone a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan received calls from US President Donald Trump, who stressed on “reducing tensions” in Kashmir. 

New Delhi, however, insisted that the calls from Washington D.C. should not be construed as Trump Administration playing the role of a mediator in diffusing escalating tension between India and Pakistan.  

“Spoke to my two good friends, Prime Minister Modi of India, and Prime Minister Khan of Pakistan, regarding Trade, Strategic Partnerships and, most importantly, for India and Pakistan to work towards reducing tensions in Kashmir. A tough situation, but good conversations!” Trump posted on Twitter after speaking to Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan. 

Sources in New Delhi told the DH that Trump had already taken off the table his offer to play the role of a mediator between India and Kashmir. 

Trump on Monday spoke to Modi, who told the US President that that Khan's rhetoric inciting violence against India was not conducive to peace in the region. The US President then spoke to Pakistan Prime Minister and stressed on the need to “moderate rhetoric” against India. 

Khan, his Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the all-powerful Pakistan Army have been leading the diplomatic campaign against New Delhi ever since Modi Government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and reorganized the state into two Union Territories. Khan on Sunday accused Modi of running a “Hindu Supremacist” Government that posed not only a threat to Pakistan, but also to minorities in India. 

Esper on Tuesday told Singh that Trump Administration had “appreciated” New Delhi's position that Modi Government's recent decisions on J&K had been “internal” affairs of India. Singh conveyed to Esper that New Delhi's decisions were all aimed at safeguarding democracy and ensuring economic development and prosperity for the people of J&K. 

Defence Minister raised the issue of cross-border terrorism coming out of Pakistan and territory under control of Pakistan and affecting India.  He appreciated US support for India’s effort to maintain peace and stability in the region. “He (US Secretary of Defence) hoped that any issue between India and Pakistan will be resolved bilaterally,” a spokesperson of the Ministry of Defence said in New Delhi after Singh-Esper spoke over the phone. 

The US Secretary of Defence hoped that any issue between India and Pakistan would be resolved bilaterally.    

Trump had last month claimed after a meeting with Khan at White House that Modi had requested him to mediate between India and Pakistan to settle the row over Kashmir. 

New Delhi had to strongly refute the US President's claim, reiterating its position that India's Simla Agreement of 1972 and Lahore Declaration of 1999 with Pakistan had left no scope for the United Nations or any third country to play any role in resolving the dispute over J&K. India had conveyed the same to the members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) before the most-powerful organ of the international organizations had an informal consultation in New York to take a call on Pakistan Foreign Minister's plea to formally bring the issue of J&K back on Horse Shoe Table. 

Notwithstanding Trump's calls to Modi and Imran on Monday and Esper-Singh talks over the phone on Tuesday, sources in New Delhi insisted that the US had not been playing the role of a mediator between India and Pakistan. Sources pointed out that Trump's offer for mediation had been dependent on both India and Pakistan agreeing to let US play the role of a go-between. Since New Delhi had not accepted it, the Trump Administration had taken it off the table.

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