Washington/New Delhi, July 23, 2019-
Was Donald Trump’s claim that he was approached by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mediate in the Kashmir issue another flub, in a long line of such seemingly thoughtless utterances by the US President?
Though the US administration rushed to control the damage his remarks have caused, with US Acting Assistant Secretary Alice Wells clarifying that the Trump administration welcomes India and Pakistan sitting down to resolve the “bilateral” issue and the “US stands ready to assist”, it is not the first time Trump has caused consternation with his utterances.
India has rejected Trump’s statement, made during a media interaction with visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar denying categorically in Parliament that Modi ever made such a request to the US President.
Asked by a reporter on Monday at the White House if the US would intervene in Kashmir, Trump said in a confidential tone: “So I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago, and we talked about this subject. And he actually said, ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?’ I asked, ‘Where?’ He said, ‘Kashmir’. Because this has been going on for many, many years. I was surprised at how long; it has been going on.”
At which point Imran Khan interjected to say, “70 years”.
“I think they (India) would like to see it resolved, and I think you (Pakistan) would like to see it resolved. And if I can help, I would love to be mediator,” Trump said.
Just a week ago, President Trump appeared to have got his information all mixed up with regard to Mumbai attacks mastermind and Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, on the day of his arrest on July 17.
“After a ten-year search, the so-called ‘mastermind’ of the Mumbai terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him!” Trump tweeted last Wednesday.
Not just Twitterati, but even the US Foreign Affairs Committee was quick to catch the US President on this gaffe. The Foreign Affairs Committee said that Saeed has been arrested and released eight times by Pakistan since 2001. “Let’s hold the (applause) until he’s convicted,” the Committee tweeted, voicing scepticism over Islamabad actually going ahead the whole legal way this time to nail the LeT founder.
A few days ago, Trump raised eyebrows with his apparent ignorance about the problems faced by Rohingya in Myanmar, Uighurs in China, and Yazidis in Iraq.
During a meeting with victims of persecution at the White House last week, the US President appeared unaware of the geographical location of Bangladesh. When a Rohingya man staying in a refugee camp in Bangladesh asked Trump if he had any plans to help them, the US President asked: “And where is that, exactly? Where?”
When the Rohingya refugee repeated that he was staying in Bangladesh, Sam Brownback, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, explained to the US President that Bangladesh is “next to Burma” and that “the Rohingyas have been run out.”
The President replied: “Thank you, appreciate it,” and moved on without answering the man’s question.
He also appeared to be unaware about the Uighur problem in western China or about the persecution that the Yazidis have faced at the hands of the ISIS.
The US media has been pulling up the President over his flubs, including calling his National Security Adviser John Bolton as “Mike” Bolton repeatedly.
In fact, during the media interaction with Imran Khan on Monday, President Trump appeared to appreciate very much the Pakistan Prime Minister saying, almost in a supplicating manner, that the US, as the most powerful country in the world, and with Trump at its head should play a role in Kashmir.
When a media person asked if Trump was going to play any role in the Kashmir issue “where millions have been dead?”, Khan said: “I will be asking President Trump. It’s the most powerful country in the world, the United States. It can play the most important role in bringing peace in the subcontinent. You know, there are over a over a billion and a quarter people in the subcontinent. They are held hostage to the issue of Kashmir. And I feel that only the most powerful state, headed by President Trump, can bring the two countries together.”
“From my point, I can tell you, we have tried our best. We’ve made all overtures to India to start dialogue, resolve our differences through dialogue. But unfortunately, we haven’t made headways as yet. But I’m hoping that President Trump would push this process,” Imran said.
Trump also appeared ignorant about the Kashmir situation, saying: “There’s just bombs all over the place” – possibly thinking it was something like what Syria was till some time ago.
“We’ll see if we can do something because I’ve heard so much about Kashmir. 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. They say everywhere you go, you have bombs and it’s a terrible situation. Been going on for many years. If I can do anything to help that, let me know,” Trump said.
When Khan said Kashmir should be resolved and that Trump would have the “prayers of over a billion people if you can mediate and resolve this issue”, the US President appeared pleased, and nodded, while saying: “It should be resolved.” (Agency)