The US President, Mr. Donald Trump has again run into a controversy a day after attending the 'Howdy Modi' rally with the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, by asserting that the Indian leader was 'very aggressive' in his remarks about Pakistan and he had not expected him to make them.
Speaking to reporters before his meeting with the Pakistan Prime Minister, Mr. Imran Khan, the next day, Mr. Trump said: 'I heard a very aggressive statement yesterday. I don't have to say that. I was there. I didn't know I was going to hear that statement.'
'But I was sitting there and I heard a very aggressive statement from India, from the Prime Minister, and I will say it was very well received within the rule. The statement itself. That was a big room; there were 59,000 people.'
The off the cuff remark was poorly phrased with a stumble over 'rule' and 'room'. He repeated that it was a 'very aggressive statement' and added, 'I hope that they're going to be able to come together -- India and Pakistan -- and do something that's really smart and good for both.'
The External Affairs Ministry Secretary (West), Mr. Gitesh Sarma, declined to comment, but said, 'There is a meeting tomorrow (with Trump). Let us wait.' Mr. Trump's statement was puzzling because the remarks were about terrorism and Mr. Trump himself had talked about fighting terrorism.
In his speech at the rally, Mr. Trump had said to a standing ovation from the audience, 'We are committed to protecting innocent civilians from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.'
Mr. Modi had said that the same people who are bothered by India rescinding Kashmir's special constitutional status under Article 370 were the ones who 'shield terrorism and nurture it.'
He did not name Pakistan, but added, 'The whole world knows them very well. Their identity is in the sponsorship of terror and the world knows it.'
Mr. Trump, who again made pitch himself to be a mediator, said, 'I'm sure there could be -- there's always a solution. And I really believe there's a solution for that.'
He also made the claim that 'India may come' around to him arbitrating on Kashmir. But he made it a point of also saying that he could mediate only if both sides agreed.
India has refused to allow any third party involvement, citing the 1972 Simla Agreement between the two nations that said they would resolve disputes bilaterally.
Mr. Trump said, 'You have to have two parties that want to agree. When they come.. . and at some point India may come… I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi. I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister Khan.'
'And if at any time they say, you know, 'We have some points we think you can maybe iron out', I think I'd be an extremely good arbitrator,' he added.
'I think I'd be an extremely good arbitrator. I've done it before, believe it or not, and I've never failed as an arbitrator. I've been asked to arbitrate disputes -- pretty big ones.'
This is the second time Mr. Trump has found himself in a controversy over Kashmir. He made an off-the-cuff remark before a meeting with Mr. Khan at the White House in July that Mr. Modi had asked him to mediate or arbitrate.India strongly denied that any such request and administration officials concurred.
Asked if he trusted Pakistan given its terrorism problem, Mr. Trump said, 'I trust this gentleman right here and I do trust Pakistan.I have a lot of Pakistani friends in New York. Great negotiators by the way.'
When Mr. Khan spoke of the problems his country has with Iran, Afghanistan and India, Mr. Trump said light-heartedly, 'He lives in a very friendly neighbourhood.'
Mr. Trump had made an election promise to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and has been negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban.
He may need the help of the Taliban's patron Pakistan to get the deal with and is, therefore, trying to mollify him.
A diplomatic source, who follows Mr. Trump's verbal somersaults, said that from his mangled prose it appeared that probably meant to say Mr. Modi was very 'passionate' but instead said 'aggressive'.
He also said that with Mr. Trump's America it was more useful to look at the broader picture of India-US ties that are close and growing rather than trying to read into his every statement knowing that he has misspoken about various countries, including close allies.