WASHINGTON– U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman has said he has apologized to India's envoy in Washington Harsh Vardhan Shringla over President Donald Trump's "amateurish and embarrassing mistake" of offering to mediate in the Kashmir issue.
Sherman, representing California's San Fernando Valley, also said that India had consistently opposed third party mediation in Kashmir and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would never have suggested to Trump to intervene in the matter.
"I just apologized to Indian Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla for Trump's amateurish and embarrassing mistake," he tweeted July 23.
"Everyone who knows anything about foreign policy in South Asia knows that India consistently opposes third-party mediation re Kashmir (sic). Everyone knows PM Modi would never suggest such a thing. Trump's statement is amateurish and delusional. And embarrassing," he said.
Earlier on July 23, President Trump claimed during a press conference with visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan that Prime Minister Modi had asked him to mediate in the dispute with Pakistan. (See India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2y0QLH9)
India immediately rejected Trump's assertion. "No such request has been made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US President," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet.
Hours after Trump offered to mediate in the Kashmir issue, U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary Alice Wells clarified that the Trump administration welcomes India and Pakistan sitting down to resolve the issue and the "U.S. stands ready to assist.”
Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, acknowledged that Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss – echoing India's consistent stand on the subject.
"While Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss, the Trump administration welcomes #Pakistan and #India sitting down and the United States stands ready to assist," Wells tweeted.
In his euphoria with the Pakistan prime minister offering to help resolve the Afghanistan war, Trump positioned himself as a mediator in the Kashmir dispute.
Speaking to reporters before his meeting in the White House with Khan, Trump asserted that during his meeting with Modi in Osaka, "We talked about the subject, (and) he actually said, 'Would you like to mediate, mediate or arbitrate?' I said, 'Where,?' (and he said) 'Kashmir'."
Trump made the claim about Modi while answering a question from a reporter about what he would do to help resolve the Kashmir issue.
Any request for mediation would be a major change in India's policy of not having third party involvement in the Kashmir issue, which India sees as a bilateral matter with Pakistan.
Denying that Modi had made a mediation request to Trump, Kumar said: "It has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally. Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross-border terrorism. The Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India and Pakistan bilaterally."
Despite previously taking a stand against Islamabad-backed terrorism, Trump put himself in a neutral position equating India and Pakistan.
He said: "I think it (India-Pakistan dispute) is two-way street. You say that India is coming in and destabilizing Pakistan, and India is saying Pakistan is coming and destabilizing. There is a lot of room right there where we can meet."
When Trump said, "If you want me to mediate or arbitrate, I will be glad to do it,” Khan immediately said, "Yes, Mr. President," and added that he will have the prayers of millions if he accomplished it.
"I will speak to him (Modi) or you can speak to him," Trump said.
Trump said that he was surprised at how long the Kashmir problem has been dragging on.
Imran Khan interjected at this point to say the Kashmir problem has been going on for 70 years.
Trump continued: "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."
"It's impossible to believe that two incredible countries that are very, very smart, with very smart leadership, can't solve a problem like that. But if you would want me to mediate, or arbitrate, I would be willing to do that," the U.S. president said.
Khan then added: "I would like to tell you that right now you will have the prayers of over a billion people if you can mediate and resolve this issue."
To which Trump nodded and said, "It should be resolved. But he (Modi) asked me the same thing. So I think there is something. So, maybe we'll speak to him, or I'll speak to him and we'll see if we can do something."
"Because I have 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. So everywhere you go, there are bombs…And it's a terrible situation, been going on for many years. If I can do anything to help, let me know," Trump said.