Congress

House Democrats apologize to India ambassador for Trump’s ‘amateurish’ claim about Kashmir

Trump claimed Indian prime minister asked him to mediate Kashmir dispute between his country and Pakistan

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., left, and Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., attend a committee markup in the Rayburn Building on May 17, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee spoke with India’s ambassador to the U.S., Harsh Shringla, on Monday to apologize for President Donald Trump’s claim that he was asked by the Indian prime minister to mediate the Kashmir territorial conflict between his country and Pakistan.

“Everyone who knows anything about foreign policy in South Asia knows that India consistently opposes third-party mediation [regarding] Kashmir,” Rep. Brad Sherman of California tweeted Monday. “Everyone knows [Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi] would never suggest such a thing. Trump’s statement is amateurish and delusional. And embarrassing,” he wrote.

Sherman, a Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in a subsequent tweet that he had apologized to the Indian ambassador for Trump’s remarks.

Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel also pushed back against Trump’s suggestion to mediate the conflict on Monday, telling Shringla in a phone call Monday that the U.S. would effectively stay out of the disagreement.

Engel, a New York Democrat, reiterated his support for the longstanding U.S. position on the disputed territory of Kashmir that India and Pakistan should hold a dialogue over it, but that other countries, including the U.S., should not dictate the “pace and scope” of that dialogue, according to a readout of the conversation.

Engel told Shringla that he believed Pakistan “must first take concrete and irreversible steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistan’s soil.”

At an open-to-the-media meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday, Trump claimed Modi had asked him to mediate the dispute that has raged along the Pakistan-India border since 1947.

“I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago,” Trump told reporters. “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 said.

“I’d love to be a mediator,” the president said.

A spokesman for Modi flatly denied Trump’s claim, reiterating India’s position that any solution on who controls Kashmir will arise from bilateral negotiations with Pakistan.

“No such request has been made,” the spokesman said.

Pakistan has rolled out a different strategy for resolving the dispute, with Khan appealing to Trump on Monday to help “bring the two countries together.”

The president would gladly play middleman, he suggested.

“I’ve heard so much about Kashmir,” Trump said. “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.”

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