Trump urges Modi to improve ties with Pakistan amid Kashmir dispute

UNITED NATIONS: US President Donald Trump has urged India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday to improve ties with Pakistan and “fulfill his promise to better the lives of the Kashmiri people,” the White House said in a statement after the pair met on the sidelines of the annual UN gathering of world leaders.

Muslim-majority Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. Last month India removed the decades-old autonomy the territory of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed under the Indian constitution.

Earlier, talking to reporters at joint press conference with Modi before their bilateral meeting in New York, Trump suggested Pakistan-India summit on Kashmir, expressing his optimism that the “good things” would happen when the “two great gentlemen” will meet.

He said he believed that Prime Minister Imran and Prime Minister Modi would “get along when they get to know” each other.

“I really believe Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Khan will get along when they get to know each other. I think a lot of good things will come from that meeting,” Trump told reporter with Modi sitting on his side.

Modi and Trump met at the UN Headquarters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. On Sunday, the two leaders had shared a stage at the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event, which was organised by the Indian-American community in Houston.

On Monday, Trump met Prime Minister Imran Khan. At their joint media talk, Trump renewed his offer of arbitration between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

“I had a very good meeting with Prime Minister Khan. It was a long meeting and we discussed a lot,” he said on Tuesday.

In a series of tweets after the meeting, India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said that Kashmir issue came up during the Trump-Modi meeting that lasted for 30-45 minutes. “We raised the challenges we face with regard to terrorism, especially in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

Modi “put forward our perspective on the issue of terrorism” and Trump showed understanding. He added that Modi told Trump that India was not shying away from talks with Pakistan but expected Islamabad take certain steps before the bilateral contacts could be resumed.

“PM Modi made it clear that we are not shying away from talks with Pakistan but we expect certain concrete steps to be taken by Pakistan before that, and we don’t find any efforts by them,” Gokhale said in a tweet.

When asked about Pakistan at the joint press conference, Trump said that Modi gave a message loud and clear and “I am sure he will be able to handle the situation”. However, he added: “You mentioned Pakistan but Iran would have to be on top of the list (on terrorism).”

On bilateral issue, Trump said he expected to have a trade deal of some kind between the US and India soon. “I think very soon we’ll have a trade deal. We’ll have the larger deal down the road a little bit, but we will have a trade deal very soon.”

The US president heaped praise on the Indian prime minister calling him “father of India”. “My personal chemistry (with Modi) is good as it can get. I have great respect, admiration and I really like him. He is a great gentleman and a great leader,” Trump said.

“I remember India before, it was very torn. There was a lot of dissension, lot of fighting, and he brought it all together. Like a father would bring it together. Maybe he is the father of India. We would call him the father of India. I think he has done a fantastic job.”

Modi reciprocated by calling Trump a great friend of India. President Trump is not a good friend of mine, he is also a great friend of India,” Modi said. “America is a very dear friend. Our friendship is based on shared values.”

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