Congress split on Trump's Kashmir mediation claim

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) As Rahul Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders took on Narendra Modi on US President Donald Trump's claim that the Indian Prime Minister had sought his mediation on Jammu and Kashmir, the party appeared divided with Lok Sabha member from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor and Mumbai leader Milind Deora singing a different tune.

"President Trump says Prime Minister Modi asked him to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir! If true, Prime Minister Modi has betrayed India's interests and 1972 Shimla Agreement. A weak Foreign Ministry denial won't do. PM must tell the nation what transpired in the meeting between him and POTUS (President of the United States)," Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

In contrast, Tharoor, one of the party star speakers in the Lok Sabha, appeared to be giving the benefit of doubt to the Prime Minister and sought a response from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

"I honestly don't think Trump has the slightest idea of what he's talking about. He has either not been briefed or not understood what Modi was saying or what India's position is on third-party mediation. That said, the MEA should clarify that Delhi has never sought his intercession," tweeted Tharoor.

Deora went a step further and fully backed the government in "national interest" though he said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would not have shown same leniency to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in similar situation.

"For the sake of India's national interest, all parties must rise above politics and welcome @MEAIndia's statement refuting @PMOIndia's alleged remarks. We must also ask whether the BJP would have extended the same courtesy to Manmohan Singh had a US President made such a claim," he said.

However, barring Tharoor and Deora most other Congress leaders attacked the government and demanded Modi to clear his stand on Trump's claim. The issue was raised in both Houses of Parliament.

Slamming the government in a series of tweets, Manish Tewari said, "The President of United States of America, with Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan standing next to him, has publicly recounted at great length a conversation Narendra Modi had with him in Osaka to mediate on Kashmir," he said

"Even by Trump's post-truth standards this is a very serious claim to make wherein he has either invented a conversation or stated what actually transpired between the two. A response by a Joint Secretary-level official won't do. Prime Minister must clarify in both Houses whether he asked Trump to mediate on Kashmir or not?"

In the Rajya Sabha, senior party leaders Anand Sharma and Ghulam Nabi Azad also raised the issue. Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala dared the Modi government to wake up and call the Trump's bluff.

"Now, 'Whitehouse' puts up POTUS' (Donald Trump) assertion in 'black and white' that Prime Minister Modi asked him to 'mediate on Kashmir'. When will our Prime Minister 'wake up' and call the bluff if President Trump is lying? Or did Prime Minister Modi ask POTUS (Donald Trump) to mediate?" Surjewala tweeted.

-- IANS

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