Imran Khan Trump
US President Donald Trump (R) and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) hold a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 23, 2019 Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: US President Donald Trump was amused while taking questions from Pakistani journalists at a joint press briefing in New York with Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The room burst into laughter when Trump asked Imran sitting next to him, “Where do you find reporters like this? These guys are fantastic.”

US President’s tongue in cheek remarks came after a Pakistani journalist asked him about human rights violation and 50-day lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir, and also asked him what he is going to do for the people of Kashmir.

When another Pakistan reporter asked Trump as a lengthy and complicated question on Kashmir, US President mocked him by saying: “I like this reporter. Are you from his team [he pointed at Imran khan]. You are saying things that you think. Yours is not a question but a statement.”

Kashmir issues brought up

Most of the Pakistani journalists attending the joint press briefing focused on Kashmir dispute and the 50-day lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir after India revoked the valley's special status on August 5.

The meeting between Khan and Trump took place in New York on Monday on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly session, a day after Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared the stage to address over 50,000 Indian-Americans in Houston.

This was the second meeting between Khan and Trump within two months. While Pakistan has been insisting for a third party intervention on Kashmir, especially after New Delhi ended scrapped Article 370 from Kashmir, India has maintained that the Kashmir issue is a bilateral one and there is no scope for a third party interference.

Offers to mediate

Addressing a joint press conference alongside Prime Minister Imran ahead of their meeting, Trump once again offered to mediate between Pakistan and India on the Kashmir issue.

“If I can help, I will certainly do that,” he said. “If both (Pakistan and India) want, I am ready, willing and able to do it.”

The US president noted that Kashmir’s was a complex issue that had been going on for a long time, but emphasised that arbitration could not be carried out unless both parties involved welcome it.

Trump said he has a “very good relationship” with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as with Prime Minister Imran. He said he has never failed as an arbitrator in the past and would be available to help if asked.

Avoiding to directly answer a question about UN resolutions on Kashmir, Trump reiterated that he is ready to play his role in South Asia if both India and Pakistan are willing.

Speaking about the US-Pakistan relationship, Trump said: “People in my position have treated Pakistan very badly.”

“I trust Pakistan but people before me didn’t, but they didn’t know what they were doing,” he said in response to a question.

“I trust this gentleman right here,” he added, pointing to Prime Minister Imran.

Trump said he has a lot of Pakistani friends in New York who are “smart” and “great negotiators”.

"Great progress"

Commenting on Pakistan’s progress to counter terrorism, the US president said: “I have heard they have made great progress and I think he (Imran) wants to make great progress.”

Asked whether he is concerned about the human rights situation in Indian Kashmir, Trump said: “Sure. I’d like to see everything work out. I want everybody to be treated well.”

In his remarks on Kashmir, Prime Minister Imran said Trump heads the most powerful country in the world, which has a responsibility to resolve disputes.

“We look to the US to put out flames in the world,” he added.

Tensions between India and Pakistan reached a feverish pitch on August 5, when New Delhi revoked the status of Indian-administered Kashmir, upsetting a constitutional guarantee that gave a special status to the disputed territory.

A strict lockdown and communications blackout was imposed in the region that has snapped off ordinary people’s internet and mobile telephone service across much of Indian administered Kashmir.

Nobel Prize

When told that he could get a Nobel prize if he helped resolve the Kashmir dispute, Trump said: “I would get a Nobel prize for a lot of things, if they give it out fairly, which they don’t.”

Trump said he did not know why one of the world’s most prestigious accolades was awarded to his predecessor in the White House Barack Obama in 2009, Dawn news reported.

“They gave one to Obama immediately upon his ascent to the presidency and he had no idea why he got it. You know what? That was the only thing I agreed with him on,” Trump said.

He said that previous US presidents had treated Pakistan unfairly, but he was not going to do so.

He also emphasised the need to “double, triple and even quadruple” bilateral trade between the United States and Pakistan.

‘Mission Kashmir’

Prime Minister Imran, who has declared himself an ambassador of Kashmiris, spent the second day of his seven-day visit to the United Nations briefing US lawmakers, scholars, human rights activists and the media on the repercussions of the Indian annexation of the disputed Kashmir valley.

The lawmakers who called on the prime minister on Sunday included US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham.

Senator Graham was also among those four US senators who wrote a letter to President Trump last week, asking him to take immediate action to end deepening humanitarian crisis in Indian Kashmir.

Prime Minister Imran appreciated President Trump’s continued offers of assistance in mediating the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, according to a Foreign Office statement. During the meeting, Imran highlighted the importance of immediate lifting of the curfew and other restrictions and resolving the Kashmir dispute for durable peace and stability in South Asia.

The two leaders also reviewed the evolving regional peace and security scenario and reiterated their shared interest in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, according to APP, Pakistan’s official news agency.

Afghan peace dialogue

Prime Minister Imran hoped for an early resumption of the Afghan peace and reconciliation process while underlining that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict. Building on Imran’s successful visit to Washington in July 2019, the two leaders expressed the resolve to expedite progress in the mutually prioritized areas of trade, investment and energy cooperation.

On Afghanistan, Imran Khan pressed Trump to re-start talks with the Taliban to pave the way for a political settlement as there was no military solution..

“Stability in Afghanistan means stability in Pakistan,” he said at the start of a meeting with Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Trump said it was “ridiculous” that the United States had been fighting there for 19 years.

However, he made no promises about restarting peace talks with the Taliban, saying only “we’ll see.” But, he said he trusted PM Imran Khan, who he called a “good friend”.