Pakistan’s Envoy to U.S. Says ‘World Should Take Notice’ to Avoid New Conflict with India over Kashmir

Sep 4th, 2019 | Category: Articles

By Tom O’Connor

Pakistan’s envoy to the U.S. warned India’s crackdown on Kashmir could destabilize the region to the point of another conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbors if left unchecked by world powers.

Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Asad Majeed Khan told Newsweek that “things are getting worse” in India-administered Kashmir as the “complete lockdown” following the repeal of Articles 370 and 35a removed the contested territory’s special status approached its one-month mark. Khan pointed to widespread reports of “an uninterrupted curfew, restraining the movement of people and internet and telephone suspension” as well as instances of violence with few other details emerging from the closed-off state.

Though happening on the other side of the disputed Line of Control separating the longtime, nuclear-armed rivals, Khan said cross-border relations were deteriorating along with conditions in India-administered Kashmir. He warned that “we are also clearly seeing an escalation on the Line of Control in the kind of weapons India is using.”

“This is of immense concern,” Khan added. “It’s not just a serious and grave humanitarian crisis, but a danger to peace and security in the region.”

The modern dispute over Kashmir is a product of the bloody partition that immediately followed the colonist United Kingdom’s departure in 1947. The schism created two rival states that immediately went to war over the Himalayan region, the first of India and Pakistan’s four major conflicts, three of which were over Kashmir.

Isolated skirmishes in Kashmir and militant activity have since continued to claim Indian and Pakistani lives, but voices from both sides have warned that the possibility of another all-out bout is real as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi oversaw a dramatic escalation this year in their nations’ decades-long rivalry.

After a suicide bombing claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed—one of the many Islamist militant groups New Delhi accuses Islamabad of sheltering—killed 40 Indian security personnel in India-administered Kashmir’s Pulwama, India conducted strikes on alleged insurgent training camps in Pakistan-controlled territory. Pakistan responded with its own attacks across the boundary, leading to a dogfight in which India lost at least one fighter jet and a pilot, who was captured alive on the other side of the border.

The pilot was released in what the Pakistani leader deemed a gesture of peace, but Modi offered a cool response, arguing that the unconditional return was simply a matter of following international laws. Now, Islamabad is accusing New Delhi of breaking of violating some 11 U.N. Security Council resolutions via its Modi’s consolidation of power in Kashmir, a move that Ambassador Khan said “impacts the final disposition regarding the people of Kashmir.”

Modi and his administration argued that the move was justified because of the ongoing insurgency that has rocked its share of Kashmir and the leader has touted “better medical infrastructure, improving quality of education, eliminating corruption” among his goals, but his Pakistani counterpart has come out strongly against this narrative, accusing him of pursuing a Hindu nationalist agenda that would ultimately harm India’s only majority-Muslim state.

In an op-ed published Friday in The New York Times, Prime Minister Khan discussed his frustration in attempting to reach out to Modi’s government in past months. As the situation escalated in recent weeks, he warned: “If the world does nothing to stop the Indian assault on Kashmir and its people, there will be consequences for the whole world as two nuclear-armed states get ever closer to a direct military confrontation.”

He pointed specifically to Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh’s comment earlier this month that New Delhi has so far “strictly adhered” to its “no-first-use” nuclear weapons policy, but that “what happens in future depends on the circumstances.”

Ambassador Khan also highlighted these remarks, telling Newsweek he “would not like to speculate on what it would look like if conflict erupts”⁠ and that “Pakistan has acted with great restraint and responsibility”⁠—Prime Minister Khan later reaffirmed his country’s commitment to “no-first-use”⁠—but the envoy said that Singh’s words were “an act of irresponsibility on India’s part and the world should take notice of that.” The Pakistani diplomat further warned that such talk was the product of Modi having tried to “whip up a national frenzy to gain domestic political mileage.”

“And he did, actually, that’s our fear,” he added. “We’re very fearful.”

The U.N. Human Rights Office and Amnesty International India recently painted a grim picture of deteriorating conditions under lockdown in Kashmir, including arbitrary arrests, a media blackout and swelling violence, in separate statements sent to Newsweek. Raja Farooq Haider, the prime minister of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, also appealed for international support to free residents from what he called “the world’s largest open-air prison” across the border in a recent conversation with Newsweek.
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“Ours is a principled position, ours is a position that seeks peace and justice for the people of Kashmir,” Ambassador Khan said. “I’m here urging in Washington DC in conversation with our interlocutors at the State Department the importance of the US and the international community in de-escalating the situation.”

While the U.S., China and Russia have all expressed concern, he said that, “frankly, the response is not as strong as the situation on the ground warrants,” adding: “What India is doing in Kashmir is a growing burden on the conscience of the international community, it’s a question of whether we’re going to have a rules-based order or not.”

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