US President Donald Trump has said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked him to mediate on the decades-long Kashmir dispute with Pakistan, a claim rejected by New Delhi.
"He actually said, 'Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?' I said, 'Where?' He said, 'Kashmir.' Because this has been going on for many, many years," Trump said at the White House, where he was hosting Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday.
"If I can help, I would love to be a mediator," the US president said, a statement that signalled a shift in long-standing US policy that the Kashmir issue must be solved bilaterally.
In response, Khan, who is on his first trip to the US as prime minister, told Trump he will have "the prayers a billion people" in the Indian subcontinent if he is able to resolve the Kashmir issue.
But India was quick to respond, rejecting the US offer of mediation and denying Modi had asked for it.
"We have seen @POTUS's remarks to the press that he is ready to mediate, if requested by India & Pakistan, on Kashmir issue. No such request has been made by PM @narendramodi to US President," India's foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar posted on Twitter.
"It has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally," he wrote.
While Islamabad has long sought US mediation on Kashmir and has repeatedly raised the dispute at international forum, India has opposed any third-party mediation, calling the dispute over the Himalayan territory an "internal matter".
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in its entirety by the nuclear-armed neighbours, who have fought two of their three wars over it.
In February this year, India, which accuses Islamabad of supporting armed rebels in Kashmir, came close to another war 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 he accused of serving as a safe haven for armed fighters. Pakistan has denied the accusations.-Al Jazeera