Facing a furore in Parliament over the issue, the government has clarified in no uncertain terms that Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not request U.S. President Donald Trump to “mediate or arbitrate” on the Kashmir issue, as Mr. Trump claimed on Monday. Addressing Parliament, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said India remains committed to its policy of discussing all outstanding issues with Pakistan only bilaterally, and assured the House that Mr. Modi did not raise this with Mr. Trump at their recent meeting in Osaka during the G-20 summit. In making the claim that has been roundly denied by New Delhi, Mr. Trump breached several well-laid diplomatic protocols, including one against discussing privileged conversations with a leader, during a public conversation with another. Mr. Trump also said a “lot” of his talks with the Pakistan Prime Minister would focus on India and Afghanistan, an odd departure from the precept of putting bilateral issues to the fore, and being more discreet when discussing sensitive relations involving other countries. For New Delhi, it may be time to recognise that Mr. Trump’s comments are a sign of new realities in international diplomacy, where leaders care less about niceties and more about open communication. Mr. Modi will have to prepare accordingly for some plain-speaking when he visits the U.S. and meets with Mr. Trump, as he is expected to, in September this year.

In the short term, the government’s decision to address the claim by Mr. Trump will have nipped any repercussions in the bud. The government should pursue the issue through diplomatic channels with the U.S. government, and determine whether Mr. Trump made the comments out of confusion or deliberately. India has always opposed any suggestion of third-party mediation on Jammu and Kashmir; both the 1972 Shimla Agreement and the 1999 Lahore declaration included India’s and Pakistan’s commitment to resolving issues between them. It is unlikely that Mr. Modi would have spoken out of line with this policy, and the most charitable explanation for Mr. Trump’s new contention is that he mistook India’s appeal to the international community to hold Pakistan accountable for terror groups on its soil that carry out attacks in Kashmir, for a general desire for mediation. Mr. Trump’s comment in March that the U.S. successfully mediated for the release of captured fighter pilot Abhinandan by Pakistan may have even given him some hope that the U.S. could play a larger role on the Kashmir issue, and New Delhi would need to address that. A more worrying proposition is that Mr. Trump took the line favoured by his Pakistani interlocutors on Kashmir as a way of enhancing his own plans for a pullout from Afghanistan with Pakistan’s help on security and talks with the Taliban. While the damage from Mr. Trump’s words may not have a very lasting impact on India-U.S. ties, that from any rushed measures to force a resolution in Afghanistan will have far-reaching and lasting impact, including on India.