Washington/Paris: Though India figured just as a blip on the radar at the G-7 summit in Biarritz in France, the significance of US President Donald Trump giving a solid chunk of 40 minutes of his time to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not lost in the larger picture.
When Trump poked fun at Modi’s English, opinion was divided on whether it was a mere in jest or a mild rebuke for hiding issues on Kashmir.
At a joint press briefing on the sidelines of the G7 summit after the two leaders held talks, Modi was asked about the outcome of the discussions, especially Kashmir. Modi immediately switched over from English to Hindi saying “I think you should let us have the discussions first, then we will let you know whatever is needed.”
Trump butted in saying “He actually speaks very good English…he just doesn’t want to talk.” Known for couching issues in jokes, the press did not know what Trump actually meant, but a few seconds of silence was broken by the US President when he broke into laughter. Modi joined the fun clasping Trump’s hands and there was laughter all around.
Bu the view in the US is that Trump meant that he actually wants to mediate between India and Pakistan on the vexatious issue of Kashmir, but Modi does not want that to happen.
And that came about then Modi almost bluntly put it that all issues between India and Pakistan were bilateral and “that is why we don’t bother any other country” on it. Trump kept mum and allowed Modi to have his way.
The Indian Prime Minister made it clear that India and Pakistan were one before 1947 and are capable of solving their own problems.
Trump, who had earlier repeatedly offered to mediate between the two countries, said: “We spoke last night about Kashmir, Prime Minister really feels he has it under control. They speak with Pakistan and I’m sure that they will be able to do something that will be very good.”
He added: “I am good friends with both Prime Ministers, I am here but I think the two can manage it themselves.”
Political analysts in the US feel that Trump pushing Kashmir off his plate was a major endorsement of Modi’s recent move to abrogate Article 370 and 35A in Kashmir.
“India and Pakistan should work together for welfare of people of our two nations,” Trump said underscoring the many challenges before the two nations that are high as well on the priority list — “illiteracy and poverty and disease”.
Soon after the meeting where Trump seemed to have met a firm leader in Modi, the US President took to Twitter saying: Just wrapped up a great meeting with my friend Prime Minister @NarendraModi of India at the #G7Summit in Biarritz, France!
Modi might have won his battle on Kashmir, but Trump was tough on trade between the two countries, said sources in Washington. Trump’s message to Modi was something like this: I shall let you off on Kashmir, but not on tariff and trade between the two nations. Trump wants India to reduce its high tariff on US goods.
The two leaders held 40-minute discussions in Biarritz, the French town which is hosting the meeting of the world’s most industrialised nations.