Modi feels he has the situation under control, says Trump on Kashmir

Modi, Trump, France, G-7 summit, India-US trade, tariffs, Kashmir, Article 370, Pakistan
The meeting in France on August 26 is the first face-to-face interaction between US President Donald Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi since the doing away of the special status of Kashmir under Article 370. Photo: ANI/Twitter

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday (August 26) told Donald Trump during the G7 summit in France’s Biarritz that all India-Pakistan issues are bilateral in nature, months after the US President offered to mediate between the two Asian countries over the Kashmir crisis.

“India and Pakistan were together before 1947 and I’m confident that we can discuss our problems and solve them together. All issues between India and Pakistan are bilateral in nature, that is why we don’t bother any other country regarding them,” the Prime Minister said.

“We spoke last night about Kashmir, Prime Minister (Modi) really feels he has it under control. They will speak with Pakistan and I’m sure that they will be able to do something that will be very good,” Trump said during the meeting.

Modi noted that during his telephonic conversations with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in the recent past, he told him that there was poverty and many other issues confronting both the countries and the nations should work together for the welfare of their people.

“When I had called Prime Minister Khan after the elections, I told him that Pakistan has to fight against poverty, India has to also fight against it. Pakistan has to fight against illiteracy and disease, and India has to also fight against them…I told him we should work together for the welfare of our people,” Modi said.

Meanwhile, joking with the Prime Minister, Trump said, “He (PM Modi) actually speaks very good English, he just doesn’t want to talk.”

“We are talking about trade, we’re talking about military and many different things. We had some great discussions, we were together last night for dinner and I learned a lot about India,” Trump said during the meeting.

The meeting between the two is also being held in the backdrop of harsh moves by the Trump administration on the trade front with the withdrawal of General System of Preferences (GSP) status for India, immediately affecting the privileged access for goods into the US market. Trump has been demanding that India reduce tariffs on US goods to make it a level playing field.

In the case of neutralizing Article 370, though India has maintained that the move is an internal matter, the issue will nevertheless be discussed at the meeting, on the sidelines of the G-7 summit at Biarritz in France.

Also read: Extreme rhetoric not conducive to peace: PM Modi tells Trump

The reason is that the US’s other ally in the region, Pakistan, is crying foul over India’s move and has attempted to bring it up at the United Nations Security Council. Though it expectedly failed, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan extensively briefed Trump about the situation in Kashmir and how India was not supposed to have tampered with the status of the state considering the seven-decade-old dispute over who it belongs to.

In response to Khan, Trump reiterated his offer of mediating on the dispute which India has consistently refused on the grounds that the Kashmir dispute is a bilateral issue between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Notwithstanding India’s stance, Modi is expected to brief Trump on Kashmir and explain the reasons behind the lockdown of the state since August 5, when the bill to withdraw its special status was tabled in the Indian Parliament.

There have been international concerns over the continuing lockdown of the state with wholesale curfews and extensive restrictions on the movement of people, goods, and outsiders into Kashmir. Top leaders of Kashmir’s political parties are under detention while opposition leaders from the rest of India have been denied entry into Kashmir. Communication lines are down and very little information is trickling out of beleaguered Kashmir.

Also read: India, Pak shouldn’t let 3rd party mediate, says Macron as Trump offers help

US officials have already indicated that it would be in the best interests of the neighbourhood if both India and Pakistan bring tensions down over Kashmir. The US has also stated that India, as the world’s biggest democracy, would do well to restore the rights of the people and hold discussions among the various stakeholders to the Kashmir dispute.

The world is also concerned over indications from India’s senior minister Rajnath Singh who said that the country was mulling over whether to change its “no first use” policy on deploying nuclear weapons. With both India and Pakistan nuclear-capable, this has set alarm bells ringing among the international community.

Trade is another prickly issue that Trump is expected to bring up with Modi. Trump has already sarcastically referred to how India expects all favours from the US without reciprocating the US’s goodwill.

That he meant it seriously was made known by withdrawing the GSP to India. If Modi does not indicate acquiescence to Trump’s demand, more punitive actions may follow. Already reeling from a massive economic downturn, the withdrawal of import tariffs from US goods will further affect the Indian local industry. Modi will have to use all his negotiating skills to prevent Trump from taking more measures that could hurt India.