The Indian government irritated on US President Donald Trump’s remarks on Kashmir mediation and said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had never asked Trump to help mediate with Pakistan over the Kashmir region, following comments by Trump that sparked a storm of criticism.
Trump told reporters on Monday that Modi asked him during a meeting in Japan last month to be a mediator on Kashmir if he so wished. There has been a decades-long dispute between Pakistan and India over this border region.
Trump was speaking at the White House ahead of talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who welcomed US efforts to mediate between the two neighbors, saying he would hold the hopes of more than a billion people in the region.
But the comments by the US president on Kashmir mediation provoked a political storm in India, which has long contended with any proposal to interfere with a third party in dealing with the issue of Kashmir, a Muslim majority, which it considers part of the country.
Hindu-majority India and Islamic Pakistan share sovereignty over divided Kashmir in the Himalayas, and the two nuclear powers have fought two wars in the context of the conflict since independence in 1947.
Pakistan has long sought to implement UN resolutions decades ago and calls for a referendum in the region to determine its future. India says the United Nations has no role in Kashmir, where separatist militants have been fighting Indian forces for years.
Trump’s comments threaten to further strain political ties with India, already under pressure from trade.
Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jayashankar told lawmakers that Modi had not asked for Kashmir mediation from Trump.
“The president has made certain statements to show that he is ready to mediate if India and Pakistan ask for that, I assure the parliament that the prime minister has not made such a request, and I repeat, he has not made such a request.”
The minister was part of the Indian delegation at the G20 summit in Japan, where Trump met with Modi.
Tension between India and Pakistan has risen since February when an attack on an Indian military convoy in Kashmir was claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group, prompting India to send warplanes to Pakistan.
The next day, Pakistan ordered its planes to enter the Indian side of Kashmir, raising speculation that the crisis would widen.
Earlier this month, a senior leader of India’s ruling party said the party would revive a plan to establish secure Hindu settlements in the mainly Muslim valley of Kashmir, a proposal that is almost certain to fuel tension in this troubled region.
Ram Madhav, secretary-general in charge of Kashmir in the Bharatiya Janata Party, said his Hindu nationalist party was committed to the return of an estimated 300,000 Hindus fleeing Kashmir after an armed uprising that began in 1989.
The picturesque mountainous region is divided between India, which controls the densely populated Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-majority Jammu region, and Pakistan, which controls land in the west. Both countries say they have the right to sovereignty over the entire region.
“We must respect their fundamental rights to return to the valley, and at the same time we must provide them with appropriate security,” Madhav said in an interview, speaking of Hindus from Kashmir.
About seven million people live in the Kashmir Valley, with 97 percent of Muslims surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Indian army and police forces to quell an uprising against the rule of New Delhi. Official figures indicate that some 50,000 Muslims have been killed in the conflict in the last three decades.
Madhav said a former government backed by Bharatiya Janata Party in Jammu and Kashmir had studied the creation of pockets of resettlement for Hindus, whether they were limited or combined with others, but had been unable to make progress. “There was no consensus on one opinion“He said.
The establishment of pockets limited to returning Hindus has little support from the local political parties of the region, the Muslim leadership or the representative groups of Hindus who have fled, and the Federal Housing Ministry in the Kashmir valley has not responded to the request for comment.
In 2015, the state government unveiled a proposal for the establishment only for the self-sustaining and heavily guarded Hindus settlements containing schools, shopping centers, hospitals and playgrounds.
Separatist groups in the region have rejected the project, and some have likened it to Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories. The plan eventually faltered after the BJP alliance collapsed with a major regional party in June 2018, leading to a direct governorship of New Delhi. New state elections are likely to take place before the end of the year.
Human rights activists recently reported serious violations in occupied Kashmir against Muslims by the Indian Army and the police.