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Closely following Kashmir issue: Trump on meeting Pak PM

President Donald Trump, who met Imran Khan in Davos on Tuesday, said the United States is “watching and closely following” the developments between India and Pakistan on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

Trump, who met Pakistani Prime Minister Khan on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos in Switzerland, described him as “a very good friend of mine”.

Trump said the two countries would not only talk about trade, which would be “of very, very paramount importance”, but many other things as well.

“And we’re working together on some borders, and we’re talking about Kashmir and the relation to what’s going on with Pakistan and India. And if we can help, we certainly will be helping. And we’ve been watching that and following it very, very closely,” a statement on the White House website quoted Trump as saying.

In response, Khan described Kashmir as “a big issue”.

“And, of course, we always hope that the US will play its part in resolving it because no other country can,” he said.

Trump, who is likely to visit India in the last week of February, gave a vague reply when asked if he will also visit Pakistan.

“We’re visiting right now, so we won’t really have to. But we — I wanted to say hello for both a relationship standpoint — we’ve had a great relationship — and from the standpoint of our two countries. We’re getting along very well,” he said, talking about Washington’s ties with Islamabad.

“I would say we’ve never been closer with Pakistan than we are right now. And that’s a big statement, although I wouldn’t say at all times we were close, as a country. But we are very close right now because of the relationship that we have,” Trump elaborated.

This was the third leadership-level interaction between Pakistan and the US since Khan’s maiden visit to Washington last July. The two leaders also met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last September.

The meeting between Trump and Khan came amid tensions in the Gulf region between Iran and the US, and Pakistan’s efforts to drum up support on the Kashmir issue.

Trump had kicked up a controversy last year — when he met Khan at the White House for the first time last July, the US president had claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue when they met in Japan’s Osaka on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit. Trump’s statement was categorically shot down by the Centre.

Trump later made similar attempts, pitching himself in a position to mediate on Kashmir, with Washington stating it would “work towards reducing tensions” between India and Pakistan.

“We are helping the situation but there are tremendous problems between the two countries, and I would do my best to mediate or something,” Trump had said.

India has held a consistent position for close to five decades that the matter will only be discussed bilaterally and is not open to a third-party intervention.

Trump had again offered to mediate, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, saying he would help resolve the Kashmir issue “if there is assent from the other side”.

Bilateral ties between India and Pakistan have remained strained since the BJP-led central government abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution and revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status last August. It also bifurcated the state into Union Territories.

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