India’s foreign minister issued a strenuous denial to an infuriated opposition in parliament on Tuesday, after US President Donald Trump said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited him to mediate in the bloody conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir.
While Pakistan has often sought third-party mediation in the decades-old dispute which has cost tens of thousands of lives, the idea is anathema to India, which has always insisted the issue can only be resolved bilaterally.
Trump set off a political storm in India by claiming during a meeting in Washington on Monday with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan that Modi had asked him two weeks ago to mediate in the Kashmir dispute.
“I’d like to categorically assure the house that no such request was made by the prime minister to the US president,” Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar told the Indian parliament, barely able to make his voice heard over the opposition tumult.
Jaishankar insisted the conflict could only be settled bilaterally and that Pakistan had to end “cross-border terrorism” before any talks.
Trump’s comments touched on one of the most sensitive topics for New Delhi.
India has disputed Kashmir with its neighbour since their independence in 1947. Both control parts of the former Himalayan kingdom, but claim it in its entirety.
They have fought two wars over the region and tens of thousands, mainly civilians, have died since an insurgency erupted three decades ago in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Tensions rose Tuesday across the line of control — the de facto border dividing Kashmir — as firing broke out, violating a ceasefire between the two sides.
Raja Akmal, a senior police official in Pakistani Kashmir, told AFP a 70-year-old woman was killed after she was hit by a mortar shell.
Another government official said two people were wounded in “heavy shelling” on the line of control, “which was targeting civilian population”.
Earlier Tuesday Indian officials had blamed Pakistan for the resumption of border firing.
Meanwhile, Indian opposition leaders on Tuesday angrily demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi clarify his position in Parliament about President Trump mediating in India’s long-running dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar read out a statement in the upper house of Parliament saying Modi made no such request to Trump as the president had claimed.
It has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally, Jaishankar said. ‘‘Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross-border terrorism,’’ he said.
Members in both houses of Parliament demanded that Modi make a statement on the issue. Opposition leaders Anand Sharma and D. Raja said it was a serious matter.
Trump said Modi recently asked him whether he would like to be a mediator or arbitrator on Kashmir. Trump spoke to reporters in Washington before Monday’s meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, the Himalayan territory they both claim and which is divided between them. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training insurgents who have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan. Islamabad denies the charge. About 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian crackdown.