Sat, 24 Aug 2019

US President Donald Trump has offered to mediate the decades-long Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, a move that signals a shift in long-standing US policy that the issue must be solved bilaterally.

"If I can help, I would love to be a mediator," Trump said at the White House on Monday, where he was hosting Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan. "If I can do anything to help, let me know."

Trump also said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to help with the Kashmir dispute, Reuters news agency reported.

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India has been against a third party mediation on Kashmir and has called it an "internal matter" whenever the issue has been raised by Pakistan at the international forum.

But Pakistan has long sought a US mediation, which is likely to be rejected outright by New Delhi.

The Himalayan territory of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in its entirety by both the nuclear-armed countries, who have fought two of their three wars over it.

In February this year, India, which accuses Islamabad of supporting armed fighters in Kashmir, came close to another war with Pakistan following a suicide bombing claimed by a Pakistan-based rebel group.

The suicide attack killed more than 40 Indian troops in India-administered Kashmir's Pulwama region, prompting tit-for-tat air attacks between the two countries.

Some 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have died over the past 30 years in India-administered Kashmir, monitoring groups say.

Last week, Pakistan arrested Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of a 2008 attack on the Indian city of Mumbai, who has been designated a "terrorist" by the US and the United Nations. More than 160 people were killed in the four-day siege.

Trump last year slashed millions of dollars of security assistance to Islamabad, which it accused of serving as a safe haven for armed fighters. Pakistan has denied the accusations.

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