President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Imran Khan in New York. AEvan Vucci/AP
Mercurial US President Donald Trump has again inflamed a controversy over India and Pakistan just a day after participating in the Howdy Modi! rally with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi by asserting that the Indian leader was "very aggressive" in his remarks about Pakistan there and that he had not expected him to make them.
Speaking to reporters before his meeting with Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday, Trump said: “I heard a very aggressive statement yesterday. I don't have to say that. I was there. I didn't know I was going to hear that statement, I had said.
“But I was sitting there and I heard a very aggressive statement yesterday from India, from the Prime Minister, and I will say it was very well received within the rule — you know, within in the room. The statement itself. That was a big room; there were 59,000 people.”
The remark was off the cuff and poorly phrased with a stumble over "rule" and “room.”
He repeated that it was a "very aggressive statement" and added, "I hope that they're going to be able to come together -- India and Pakistan -- and do something that's really smart and good for both."
Trump is scheduled to meet Modi on Wednesday at 12.15pm New York Time (9.45pm IST).
“I was sitting there and I heard a very aggressive statement yesterday from India, from the Prime Minister [Narendra Modi].”
Asked about Trump's remark, External Affairs Ministry Secretary (West), Gitesh Sarma, declined to comment.
He said, "There is a meeting tomorrow (with Trump). Let us wait for it."
Trump's statement about Modi making "very aggressive statements" is puzzling because the remarks were about terrorism and Trump himself had talked about fighting terrorism.
In his speech at the Howdy Modi! rally, Trump had said to a standing ovation from the audience, “We are committed to protecting innocent civilians from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.”
Modi had said that the same people who are bothered by India rescinding Kashmir's special constitutional status under Article 370 were the same ones who "shield terrorism and nurture it."
He did not name Pakistan, but added, "The whole world knows them very well. Their identity is in the sponsorship of terror and the world knows it."
Trump, who again made pitch himself to be a mediator or arbitrator, said, "I'm sure there could be -- there's always a solution. And I really believe there's a solution for that."
He also made the claim that "India may come" around to him arbitrating on Kashmir.
But he made it a point of also saying that he could mediate only if both sides agreed to it.
India has refused to allow any third party involvement in disputes with Pakistan citing the 1972 Simla Agreement between the two nations that said they would resolve disputes bilaterally.
Trump said, "You have to have two parties that want to agree. When they come.. . and at some point India may come… I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi. I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister Khan."
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Friday urged the US to persuade India to start mediation talks on the Kashmir issue. His remarks come at a time when the US President Donald Trump
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