‘Will love to be a mediator in Kashmir talks’: Trump after meeting Imran atWhite House

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Monday offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue as he met Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House for the first time.

Trump said that he is ready to help, if the two countries ask.

“If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Trump said in his opening remarks at the Oval Office during his meeting with Khan.

“I think they (Indians would like to see it resolved. I think you (Khan would like to see it resolved. And if I can help, I would love to be a mediator. It should be. We have two incredible countries that are very, very smart with very smart leadership, (and they can’t solve a problem like that. But if you would want me to mediate or arbitrate, I would be willing to do that,” Trump said.

“We have a very good relationship with India. I know that your relationship (with India is strained a little bit, maybe a lot. But we will be talking about India,(it’s a big part of our conversation today and I think maybe we can help intercede and do whatever we have to do. It’s something that can be brought back together. We will be talking about India and Afghanistan both,” Trump told Khan.

Khan welcomed Trump’s remarks and said if the US agrees, prayers of more than a billion people will be with him.

“Right now, you would have the prayers of over a billion people if you can mediate (on Kashmir,” Khan told Trump.

India maintains that the Kashmir issue is a bilateral one and no third party has any role.

Trump also said that Pakistan was helping the US in the Afghan peace process as he met Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House for the first time in a meeting, which Islamabad hopes would reset the strained bilateral ties.

Khan, who was accompanied by Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi among others, was greeted by Trump upon his arrival at the White House.

In his opening remarks, President Trump noted that the US is working with Pakistan to withdraw from Afghanistan, and does not want the US to be a policeman in the region.

President Trump said that Pakistan was helping the US in the Afghanistan peace process.

“I don’t think Pakistan respected the United States” in the past, Trump said, but “they are helping us a lot now.”

The Trump administration has intensified its efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of America’s longest war in Afghanistan where the US has lost over 2,400 soldiers since late 2001, when it invaded the country after the 9/11 terror attacks.

Khan’s visit comes at a time when talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban are thought to have entered a decisive phase.

Pakistan’s efforts have been appreciated for facilitating peace talks with the Taliban.

“The Prime Minister of Pakistan is here to showcase his vision of a ‘Naya Pakistan’ and to start a new era of bilateral relations. We have come with a narrative of peace and prosperity in the region,” Qureshi tweeted soon after arriving at the White House.

Ties between the US and Pakistan strained after Trump, while announcing his Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August 2017, hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens to “agents of chaos” that kill Americans in Afghanistan and warned Islamabad that it has “much to lose” by harbouring terrorists.

During the meeting, the American leadership is likely to press Khan to take “decisive and irreversible” actions against terrorist and militant groups operating from Pakistani soil and facilitate peace talks with the Taliban.

Nawaz Sharif was the last Pakistani prime minister to visit the US on an official trip in October 2015.

Trump, in addition to a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office, will host the visiting delegation over a working lunch at the White House.

The relations between Pakistan and the US have remained tense during Trump’s tenure.

The US president has publicly said that Pakistan has given us “nothing but lies and deceit” and also suspended security and other assistance for backing terror groups.

India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January of 2016 by Pakistan-based terrorists, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.

Early this year, tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26.

The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured Indian pilot, who was handed over to India on March 1.