Pakistan warns India its actions in Kashmir could provoke war

Imran Khan tells UN assembly ‘two nuclear-armed countries will come face to face’

Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, warned last night that India’s actions in Kashmir could cause a “bloodbath” in the region and provoke war between the two nuclear-armed countries.

In an address to the United Nations general assembly in New York, Khan described the situation in Kashmir as a test for the UN and warned that a conflict between India and Pakistan would have “consequences far beyond the borders”.

Pakistan, which also claims Kashmir, responded furiously to Delhi’s decision in August to strip Indian-administered Kashmir of its special status. It has urged the global community to intervene, and said Kashmiris were being treated like animals.

Kashmir, already one of the world’s most heavily militarised regions, was flooded with extra troops and placed under curfew ahead of its loss of special status. Thousands of people have reportedly been arrested as part of a security crackdown.

Most travel restrictions have since been removed, but mobile and internet services remain suspended.

Khan said India’s actions would radicalise Kashmiris and increase the likelihood of a terrorist attack. “There will be a reaction to this, Pakistan will be blamed, two nuclear-armed countries will come face to face like we came in February,” he said.

“If a conventional war starts, anything could happen. But supposing a country seven times smaller than its neighbour is faced with a choice: either you surrender or you fight for your freedom till death. We will fight and when a nuclear-armed country fights to the end it will have consequences far beyond the borders, it will have consequences for the world.”

His speech came shortly after an address in New York by the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, who did not mention Kashmir but said his country wanted peace and harmony. Modi’s comments instead focused on the India’s efforts to protect the environment and development issues such as healthcare.

He also called for unity in tackling terrorism, adding that India’s “voice against terrorism to alert the world about its evil rings with seriousness and outrage”.

On Thursday the senior US diplomat for south Asia called for a calming of rhetoric between India and Pakistan, saying Washington hoped to see rapid action by India to lift restrictions on Kashmir and the release of detainees there.

The two countries came to the brink of war in February after a suicide bomber blew up a convoy of more than 40 Indian soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region.

Residents of Indian-controlled Kashmir expressed hope that the UN speeches would turn world attention to the unprecedented lockdown in the region.

“We really hope these leaders will do something to rid us of conflict and suppression,” said Nazir Ahmed, a schoolteacher on the outskirts of Srinagar. “Conflict is like a cancer hitting every aspect of life. And Kashmiris have been living inside this cancer for decades now.”

As the two leaders spoke on Friday, large duelling protests supporting and opposing India’s action in Kashmir were taking place across the street from the UN headquarters.

Donald Trump has offered to mediate if both Pakistan and India agree to it, but Delhi has always refused outside mediation. Modi has presented his actions in Indian-controlled Kashmir as essential to counter separatism and terrorism, which he accuses Pakistan of fomenting.


Rebecca Ratcliffe in Delhi

The GuardianTramp

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