Both Houses of Parliament witnessed disruptions on Tuesday as Opposition members demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself clarify on Donald Trump’s remarks that he had asked the U.S. President to mediate on the Kashmir issue.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said in the Rajya Sabha that he “would like to categorically state that no such request has been made by the Prime Minister to the U.S. President.” Mr. Trump made the remarks while meeting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Washington on Monday.
Mr. Jaishankar said all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan “can be discussed only bilaterally.”
“Yesterday evening, after the House adjourned, we heard remarks by President Donald Trump at a meeting with Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan...that he is ready to mediate if requested by India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. I would like to categorically assure the House that no such request had been made by the Prime Minister to the U.S. President... I would further underline that any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross-border terrorism. Let me conclude by emphasizing that the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration provide the basis for resolving all issues between India and Pakistan bilaterally,” he said.
As soon as the Upper House assembled for Question Hour mentions, members of all Opposition parties, including the Congress, the SP, the BSP, the DMK, the TMC and the CPI(M), demanded that the Prime Minister come to the House and explain.
The Opposition, insisting on Mr. Modi’s reply, assured the government that they would not seek any clarification. A Congress member of the Rajya Sabha said there were multiple meetings between senior Opposition leaders and the Parliamentary Affairs Minister. The Opposition got the impression that Mr. Modi might issue a short statement. When it didn’t happen, the Opposition chose to walk out.
Amid uproar, senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who is also the Minority Affairs Minister, rued that the Opposition parties did not trust their Prime Minister and government and said the Opposition could not dictate terms. He said Mr. Jaishankar’s statement was a collective response of the government.
When the proceedings resumed at 2 p.m., Congress member P. Chidambaram expressed anguish over the debate amid protests and said that while a “large section of the Opposition is agitated” the Chair must adjourn the House and try to find a solution instead of allowing the business to go on.
When the House met again at 3.00 p.m., the scenes of disarray continued. BJP member Bhupendra Yadav pointed out that if the Lok Sabha could be satisfied with the External Affairs Minister’s statement, why not the House of Elders. To this, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Rajya Sabha should not be needlessly compared to the Lok Sabha all the time. There is a reason why there are two Houses and not one. “If this government wants to run Parliament like a department we shall not let it happen. Parliament is not a department of any Ministry that you can run on your whims and fancies. It can be run only as per the established principles and rules,” Mr. Azad said.
In the Lok Sabha, the Opposition walked out. Mr. Jaishankar was present when the walkout happened and was in the midst of his statement asserting that no such conversation had taken place between Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump. Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy, however, said that rather than Mr. Jaishankar, whom he called a seasoned diplomat, who present a carefully drafted statement couched in appropriate language, Mr. Modi himself should respond.
Earlier, at the start of Zero Hour, former Union Ministers Manish Tewari of the Congress and T.R. Baalu of the DMK demanded that Mr. Modi himself make the statement and said the House wanted to hear from him.
Mr. Tewari said that since Mr. Trump’s statement was serious, the clarification should come from the Prime Minister himself. Speaker Om Birla tried to pacify the Opposition members, but they stood their ground and walked out while Mr. Jaishankar was speaking.
Home Minister Amit Shah requested the Speaker to allow Mr. Jaishankar to repeat the statement as it was essential that people hear him clearly.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi termed the Opposition’s behaviour “unfair” and an effort to malign the image of the country.