ISLAMABAD, Pakistan / CHANDIGARH, India
U.S. President Donald Trump's offer to mediate the lingering Kashmir dispute was welcomed in Pakistan but has triggered backlash in India, which maintains insurgency in the Muslim-majority Himalayan state is its internal affair.
Trump, during a joint news conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday, said: "If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. If I can do anything to help, let me know."
Khan is on an official visit to Washington.
Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.
Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistance to Pakistan's prime minister on information, told reporters in the restive port city of Karachi: "We welcome the U.S. president's offer of mediation on the Kashmir dispute and we want progress in this direction."
She said the acceptance of Kashmir as a dispute by the U.S. president is victory for Pakistan.
Earlier, the Prime Minister Office also appreciated Trump's gesture.
"During meeting with U.S. president, Pakistani premier underlined that his country would continue to pursue dialogue and diplomacy to resolve longstanding disputes, including the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir," his office said in a statement.
Pakistani analysts believed that Trump's offer shows there were some kind of backdoor channels working to resolve the longstanding issues between the two nuclear-power neighbors.
"We cannot set aside U.S. president's statement too. We were hearing that Prime Minister Imran Khan was in favor of [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi coming into power. It seems there were some kind of back-door channels working to resolve Pakistan-India issue," Fakhar Kakakheil, an Islamabad-based political analyst told Anadolu Agency.
Shockwaves in India
On the other side of the fence, Trump's statement on Kashmir has left India in a conundrum.
Rahul Gandhi, senior leader of the opposition Congress Party and heir of India's oldest political dynasty, has used Trump's statement to launch a fresh attack on Modi.
“President Trump says PM Modi asked him to mediate between India & Pakistan on Kashmir! If true, PM Modi has betrayed India’s interests & 1972 Shimla Agreement. A weak Foreign Ministry denial won’t do. PM must tell the nation what transpired in the meeting between him & @POTUS,” Gandhi tweeted on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Indian government is trying to minimize the damage done.
Raveesh Kumar, spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs, tweeted: “We have seen @POTUS's remarks to the press that he is ready to mediate, if requested by India & Pakistan, on Kashmir issue. No such request has been made by PM @narendramodi to US President. It has been India's consistent position...”
Sameer Patil, a fellow at Mumbai-based Gateway House think tank, said: “President Trump's remarks haven't obviously gone down well in India because Delhi has steadfastly opposed any third party mediation on Kashmir issue. India has time and again insisted that the any mediation is a flawed approach, which treats India and Pakistan in the same manner."
Chitrapu Uday Bhaskar, director at the Society for Policy Studies in New Delhi told Anadolu Agency: “The statement [by Trump] has created a flutter. But the professionals have stepped into quarantine … Kashmir is on the international wish-list. It is not that Kashmir has disappeared from bilateral issue. What India is saying is leave it to us, we will deal it bilaterally."
The matter was raised in both the houses of parliament with opposition leaders seeking an explanation from the government, local media reported.
The Taliban have also condemned the remarks made by the U.S. President. In a statement on the group's propaganda site, the Taliban said the U.S cannot win the ''lost war'' in Afghanistan.
In Kashmir, the U.S. move was welcomed as pro-independence groups saw it as a step forward in their struggle.
“Being the most affected party, people of Kashmir want an early resolution to the lingering Kashmir conflict. Been urging for dialogue at all levels. Every effort, pushing India and Pakistan in that direction. POTUS is welcome by the people of J&K,” senior resistance leader and Kashmir chief cleric, Mirwaiz Umar said.
Former Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: “Is Govt of India going to call real Donald Trump a liar or has there been an undeclared shift in India’s position on third party involvement in Kashmir.”
Also, the Kashmiri diaspora in the U.S. termed the move a "forthright and principled stand".
“It’s very clear that Kashmir needs a strong and determined will and the genius of an imagination that has the negotiating skills and knows how to bring people together. We believe that there cannot be a better person than President Trump himself to mediate between the parties concerned,” said Ghulam Nabi Fai, who is secretary-general of Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum.
Fai said that the resolution of Kashmir dispute will “bring unparalleled honor to the one who help to achieve it”.
“That honor could be yours, Mr. President [Donald Trump]. Your leadership in helping to settle the Kashmir dispute should not be seen to favor India or Pakistan but to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and human rights in the region of South Asia,” he added.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.
* Zahid Rafiq from Kashmir contributed to this storyAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.