BIARRITZ, France (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that India and Pakistan could handle their dispute over Kashmir on their own, but he was there should they need him.
The U.S. president has previously offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, a mountainous region which has been the source of repeated confrontations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours ever since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Trump discussed the issue on the sidelines of a G7 summit in France with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who withdrew autonomy for the state of Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
“We spoke last night about Kashmir, the prime minister really feels he has it under control,” he told reporters. “They speak with Pakistan and I’m sure that they will be able to do something that will be very good,” he said.
Trump infuriated the Indian government last month when he said Modi had asked him to mediate in the dispute, drawing an immediate denial from New Delhi.
Sitting alongside Trump, Modi said the issues over Kashmir were bilateral, between India and Pakistan.
Modi’s abrupt decision this month to cancel the mainly Muslim region’s autonomous status triggered weeks of protests, mainly in the restive district of Soura, which has emerged as the centre of discontent.
It has also drawn deep anger in Pakistan, which said last week it would take the case to the International Court of Justice.
On Monday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said the United Nations had a responsibility to ensure that the people of Kashmir had the right to decide their own future through a referendum.
He called Modi’s intervention a “huge blunder” and said the risk of nuclear confrontation between the two countries meant the issue went beyond the immediate region.
“The responsibility today lies on the international community,” he said in a special televised address on Kashmir, adding that Pakistan would “go to any length at every forum” to press the issue.
He called on Pakistanis to stop work for half an hour on Friday as a mark of solidarity with Kashmiris.
“We as a whole nation give this message to the 8 million Kashmiris that we are standing with them,” he said.
Kashmir has been the starting point for two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since the two states were created out of British-ruled India following World War Two.
In February this year, following a militant attack on a police convoy in Indian-controlled Kashmir, the two countries came close to war with jets fighting a dogfight in the skies over Kashmir before tensions eased.
Additional reporting by Asif Shahzad, James Mackenzie in ISLAMABAD; Writing by John Chalmers and James Mackenzie; Editing by Richard Lough and Alison Williams