President Donald Trump on Monday offered to mediate the decades-long Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, signaling a shift in long-standing US policy that the issue must be solved bilaterally.
"If I can help, I would love to be a mediator," Trump said at the White House, where he was hosting Prime Minister Imran Khan. "If I can do anything to help, let me know."
It is far from the first time that Trump has offered to intervene in a seemingly intractable international dispute. US mediation, which has long been sought by Pakistan, is rejected outright by New Delhi.
Pakistan and India have been fighting over the disputed for decades. In February, a suicide bombing killed 41 Indian troops in Indian Occupied Kashmir, prompting tit-for-tat air strikes between the two countries.
Trump voiced concern over the situation in occupied Kashmir for the last many years.
Trump said that he had discussed the Kashmir issue with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom he recently met at the G20 last month in Osaka, Japan.
Official working luncheon was also held at the White House.
US First Lady Melania Trump took to Twitter to welcome PM Imran at the White House.
PM Imran's visit to White House
"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," Trump said.
"If I can help, I would love to be a mediator," he said. Kashmir is a beautiful world and it must be beautiful place, Trump said.
Prime Minister Khan said peace in South Asia is hostage to Kashmir dispute.
The prime minister highlighted Pakistan's sacrifices in the war on terror in terms thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars lost to militancy.
President Trump received PM Imran Khan at the White House on Monday. A senior US admin official has said ahead of meeting “US will press for concrete cooperation from Pak to advance Afghan peace process” & “deepen & sustain its crackdown against militants within its territory”. pic.twitter.com/a7ud5zXuZD— VOA DEEWA (@voadeewa) July 22, 2019
He said Pakistan would be straightforward in its cooperation on Afghan peace.
In response to a question, President Trump said he would like to expand trade and economic relationship manifold with Pakistan and said it greatly helped in curbing extremism.
Trump said Pakistanis were talented people and that he had many Pakistani friends in New York.
He said the people of India and Pakistan were smart and there should be peace in South Asia.
Trump voiced optimism that Prime Minister Imran Khan could help broker a political settlement to end the nearly 18-year-old US war in Afghanistan and held out the possibility of restoring aid to Islamabad.
"I think Pakistan is going to help us out to extricate ourselves," Trump said, with Imran sitting next to him at the start of a White House meeting.
Trump spoke of possibly restoring $1.3 billion in American that he had cut last year, depending upon the results of the meeting.
The United States and Pakistan have a complicated relationship. Trump last year complained on Twitter that the Pakistanis "have given us nothing but lies & deceit" and "give safe haven" to militants.
"They were really, I think, subversive. They were going against us," Trump said on Monday, adding that the US relationship with Pakistan had improved.
Imran told Trump that a peace deal with the Taliban was closer than it had ever been.
"We hope that in the coming days we will be able to urge the Taliban to speak to the Afghan government and come to a settlement, a political solution," the prime minister said in the Oval Office meeting when reporters were present.
Trump wants to wrap up US military involvement in Afghanistan and sees Pakistan's cooperation as crucial to any deal to end the war and ensure the country does not become a base for militant groups.
Washington wants Islamabad to pressure Afghanistan's Taliban into a permanent ceasefire and participation in talks with the Afghan government.
Trump told reporters he would discuss Afridi's case with Imran as well as other "hostages".
Imran told Trump that he had brought him "good news" on two hostages, but did not elaborate on what he meant while reporters were present.
‘Working toward peace, stability, and prosperity’
Meanwhile, the White House has issued a ‘fact sheet’ over Prime Minister Imran’s visit to the US, stating that President Trump wants to work with Pakistan to achieve peace, stability, and economic prosperity in the region.
- President Trump is working to strengthen cooperation with Pakistan on issues that are vital to the peace, stability, and prosperity of the South Asia region.
- President Trump has made clear that he wants to see peace and stability in the region. The US president acknowledges the initial steps Pakistan has taken to improve regional security and counter terrorism.
- Pakistan has made efforts to facilitate the Afghanistan peace talks, and Islamabad will be asked to further enhance its efforts.
- The path to a strong and enduring partnership between Pakistan and the United States lies in working together to find a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan.
- Pakistan has taken some steps against terrorist groups operating within Pakistan.
- It is vital that Pakistan take action to shut down all groups once and for all.
- The United States and Pakistan enjoy a strong economic partnership that benefits both of countries.
- The United States and Pakistan set a new record for bilateral trade in 2018 of $6.6 billion.
- United States exports to Pakistan reached a record high of $2.8 billion in 2018, supporting approximately 10,000 American jobs.
- The United States is the largest export market for Pakistan’s goods.
- Our trade relationship with Pakistan has been especially beneficial for American farmers.
- The United States exported $1.4 billion in agricultural products to Pakistan in 2018.
- Over the past 15 years, the United States has been one of the top five investors in Pakistan.
- American energy producers are seeing more and more business opportunities with Pakistan.
- American companies are incorporating cutting-edge technologies into energy projects throughout Pakistan.
- American companies have competed to win more than $3 billion in energy-related business in Pakistan.
- Pakistan has purchased extensive amounts of American liquefied natural gas (LNG), including 22.8 billion cubic feet of LNG from March 2017 to April 2019.
- ExxonMobil reestablished its presence in Pakistan in 2018 after 27 years and is working to increase LNG imports.
With additional input by Reuters, AFP