President Donald Trump spun a tale in front of reporters Monday that he was personally asked by India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, to mediate the Kashmir conflict with Pakistan. But a spokesman for Modi quickly issued a statement that “no such request has been made.”
Trump raised the issue during a meeting with Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, in the White House while reporters listened.
“I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago,” Trump recalled. “He actually said, ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?’ I said, “Where?′ He said, ‘Kashmir.’ Because this has been going on for many, many years. I was surprised at how long it’s been going on,” Trump added, revealing his lack of knowledge about the history of the conflict.
Trump added: “I’d love to be a mediator.”
Even before India denied Trump’s claim, the White House refused to confirm that the Kashmir conversation between Modi and Trump had occurred, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The nonpartisan think tank The Council on Foreign Relations noted in a Monday blog post, headlined “The Trouble With Facts,” that India has always believed the conflict over the disputed region of Kashmir must be decided by India and Pakistan alone. So it “struck experts on South Asia as strange” that Modi had “personally requested U.S. mediation,” the statement added.
Indian government spokesman Raveesh Kumar flatly repudiated Trump’s claim less than an hour after the White House meeting.
It seems Trump “misinterpreted whatever he and Modi might have discussed — if indeed they did discuss Kashmir,” observed the council blog post. “Tough issues in diplomacy can’t be solved on the fly, and require careful attention to the facts and to history. Unfortunately, today’s press availability showed something quite to the contrary.”
The Kashmir dispute is particularly fraught because both nations have nuclear weapons. Trump, who boasts he’s a master at making deals, has had little success in the international arena.
Unlike India, Pakistan has sought outside mediation in the conflict over Kashmir, and Khan appealed to Trump on Monday to help “bring the two countries together.” Trump said he would speak with Modi.
“I’ve heard so much about Kashmir,” said the president. “Such a beautiful name. It’s supposed to be such a beautiful part of the world. But right now there’s just bombs all over the place.”
Trump is seeking Pakistan’s help in the U.S. war in Afghanistan, hoping to persuade Islamabad to pressure the Afghan Taliban to agree to a ceasefire and negotiate with the Afghan government.
Pakistan and India have battled over Kashmir since Pakistan was established 70 years ago. Earlier this year, India launched an airstrike in the region — and Pakistan retaliated — after a suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed 40 Indian troops.
Trump’s claim about mediation was hardly the most surprising of his comments. He also claimed he has a “real understanding” of Puerto Rico because he held two beauty pageants on the island that “literally 100%” of Puerto Ricans watched.
He also said the U.S. could wipe Afghanistan “off the face of the Earth ... literally in 10 days,” but that he didn’t “want to kill 10 million people.”