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Trump finds himself caught in Khan-Modi crossfire over Kashmir

Josh Wingrove, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump found himself drawn deeper into a decadeslong dispute between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region on Monday, as Pakistan's prime minister expressed frustration about a rally his Indian counterpart staged with the U.S. president a day earlier.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he intended to privately discuss Kashmir with Trump, after the president's participation in the Houston rally Sunday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But journalists asked Khan and Trump about it ahead of a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

"So I was going to say that, when you're supposed to meet Narendra Modi, now I would have asked you to at least lift the siege," he told Trump. "It's a huge humanitarian crisis taking place."

The Houston rally, called "Howdy, Modi," gave Modi the opportunity to demonstrate his rapport with Trump, whom he endorsed to tens of thousands of Indian Americans who attended. But Modi also drew Trump into offering tacit support for the Indian leader's moves to expand his country's authority over the parts of Kashmir it controls.

India and Pakistan, which both possess nuclear weapons, have fought two major wars over the territory and regularly skirmish across the Line of Control that divides it.

"Border security is vital to the United States. Border security is vital to India, we understand that," Trump said at the Houston event. He pledged to fight "radical Islamic terrorism" and insisted: "We must protect our borders."

 

In a speech that followed Trump's remarks, Modi obliquely criticized Pakistan and accused it of harboring terrorists, then assured the crowd that Trump was committed to fighting terrorism.

Trump indicated Monday that he had been surprised. "I didn't know I was going to hear that statement, I would say. I heard a very aggressive statement yesterday," though he didn't specify which of the Indian prime minister's remarks he was referring to.

Modi charged at the Houston event that "people have put their hatred of India at the center of their political agenda," without naming Pakistan. "These are people who want unrest. These are people who support terrorism and nurture terrorism."

He rhetorically asked who was responsible for the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai and the 2001 attacks in the U.S. "You know them, very well," Modi said. "You know who they are. It's not just you, the whole world knows who they are."

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