Press Trust of india

Trump's claim: Oppn demands Modi's response, Rahul says 'weak' MEA denial won't do

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New Delhi, Jul 23 :  The Opposition, led by the Congress, on Tuesday joined hands to demand a clarification from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on US President Donald Trump's stunning claim that the Indian leader had requested him to mediate in the Kashmir issue.

If what Trump claims is true, Modi has betrayed India's interests, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, a sentiment backed by several Opposition leaders who spoke out in Parliament and outside.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar made a statement on the floor of both Houses of Parliament and strongly rejected Trump's comment during a meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Washington.

On Monday night, the Ministry of External Affairs issued a strong denial, saying it has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally.

Opposition parties were, however, not satisfied and wanted Modi to come to both the Houses and clarify.

Gandhi also asserted that a "weak" foreign ministry denial wouldn't do and the prime minister must tell the nation what transpired in the meeting between him and the US president.

The issue rocked the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha with frequent disruptions as Opposition members vociferously put forth their demand.

As soon as the Lower House met for the day, members from the Congress and some other Opposition parties were on their feet shouting slogans over the issue.

Later, when Zero Hour began, Congress' Manish Tewari said  the prime minister himself should clarify since Trump's statement is serious.

Echoing him, AIADMK's T R Baalu said Modi should personally make a statement since the issue involved him.

When Jaishankar rose to make a statement, it was drowned in protests by the entire opposition. The opposition then walked out of proceedings.

In the Upper House, too, there were heated exchanges between opposition benches and Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, who adjourned proceedings. The Rajya Sabha was repeatedly adjourned amid opposition uproar over Trump's comment.

The Congress welcomed the government's reiteration of India's 'no third party involvement' stand on the Kashmir issue but asked why Modi was "mum" over Trump's claim.

The US president's remarks "relate to a meeting between him and PM Modi, wherein our PM had asked him to mediate", Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a tweet.

"Why is PM 'mum' on what transpired between the two heads of states, more so when it affects our sovereignty?" Surjewala asked.

In another tweet, he tagged the remarks of Trump put out by the White House.

"Now, 'Whitehouse' puts up @POTUS assertion in 'black & white' that PM Modi asked him to 'mediate on Kashmir'!" he said

"When will our PM 'wake up' & call the bluff if President Trump is lying? Or Did PM Modi ask @POTUS to mediate?" Surjewala wondered.

Opposition leaders met in his colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad's chamber in Parliament and called for suspension of all business. They also sought an explanation from the PM in both the Houses on Trump's statement.

Various opposition leaders addressed a press conference on the issue.

Flanked by Opposition leaders, including CPI's D Raja, NCP's Majeed Menon, DMK's Tiruchi Siva, SP's Ramgopal Yadav and AAP's Sanjay Singh, Azad said his party was ready to believe the prime minister's side of the story but he should clarify the issue on the floor of the House.

Trump, the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha added, was unlikely to have made the remarks in jest.

"No matter which government was in power at Centre in past, our foreign policy has been that Kashmir is bilateral issue and no third party can intervene and President Trump knows it, I don't think President Trump would tell Pakistan's PM that India's PM has asked the US to mediate," Azad said.

The Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien said his party wants the prime minister to make a statement on the issue to clear the air.

"Along with all opposition parties, we, Trinamool, have a simple demand. The PM of India has to come to Parliament, make a statement and clear the air," he said.            PDP president and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said Trump's "disclosure" on third party mediation on Kashmir is a "huge policy shift" and India and Pakistan must seize the opportunity to forge peace through dialogue.

The Congress along with other opposition parties on Monday night had also demanded a clarification from Modi on whether there has been a shift in India's position of no third party involvement in the Kashmir issue after Trump offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on the matter.

Trump claims that Modi asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue when they met in Osaka, Japan, on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit last month.

"If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. If I can do anything to help, let me know," Trump said in response to a question, adding he is ready to help, if the two countries ask for it.

"I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject (Kashmir). And he actually said, 'would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?' I said, 'where?' (Modi said) 'Kashmir'," Trump said.

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