Trump ready to mediate on J&K if India, Pak asks: US

Last Updated 25 October 2019, 08:51 IST

The onus for peace talks between India and Pakistan lies on Islamabad which has to take "sustained and irreversible actions" against terror groups, a senior US official has said, reiterating President Donald Trump's willingness to mediate on the Kashmir issue, only if asked by both the countries.

India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January of 2016 by a Pakistan-based terror group, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.

Bilateral relations touched a new low when India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August following which Pakistan downgraded the diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian envoy.

The State Department official said the US will continue to encourage an atmosphere that allows for constructive Indo-Pak dialogue.

President Trump has expressed his concern over the level of tension between India and Pakistan. And he discussed Kashmir directly in his meetings with Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Imran Khan, the official said on condition of anonymity.

"He (Trump) certainly is prepared to play a mediation role, if both the countries ask. It has been India's position not to seek outside mediation," the official said.

If the President is asked to mediate by both countries, he has expressed his willingness and his interests to help facilitate a solution, the official told a group of reporters when pressed further. India has been quite clear in Prime Minister Modi's office saying that they are not seeking mediation, the official said.

India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and ruled out any third party mediation, including either from the UN or the US, saying it is a bilateral issue with Pakistan.

However, the official said it does not mean that the US is not actively encouraging dialogue to take place and that an atmosphere for constructive dialogue between the two countries be established.

The onus for peace talks between India and Pakistan lies on Islamabad by taking sustained and irreversible actions against terrorist groups, according to the official.

The official termed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Kartarpur Corridor a welcome confidence-building measure between India and Pakistan which will help increase people-to-people contact.

India and Pakistan on Thursday signed the historic agreement on the Kartarpur corridor that will allow Indian pilgrims to undertake a visa-free visit to the shrine of the Sikh religion's founder Guru Nanak Dev in Pakistan.

"While it's a small step, we need more like this to also create the will, the goodwill and the environment for constructive dialogue," the official said.

Asked if the US supports India's position that "talks and terror cannot go together", the official said it is important that Pakistan take "sustainable and irreversible steps against terrorism".

It is also possible to have a dialogue and the United States encourages the countries to engage as two nuclear powers living side by side, the official said.

"When you have two nuclear powers... it is important that your all avenues be explored to increase contact and communication between the two sides, the official said, adding that President Trump is engaged with leaders of both the countries.

Referring to the 'Howdy Modi' event in Houston in September, the official said this demonstrated the very close partnership and friendship that the US has with India.

"The India-US strategic partnership has been growing over the last two and a half years. It is obviously part of a longer bipartisan two decade's of effort to improve relations with India that has now reached a stage of confidence and maturity," the official added.

(Published 25 October 2019, 03:32 IST)

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