Ban Ki-moon offers to mediate over Kashmir tensions

India and Pakistan trade fire along de facto border as UN secretary general offers to mediate escalating dispute.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has offered to act as mediator between India and Pakistan amid rising tensions over the disputed region of Kashmir.

The nuclear-armed neighbours traded gunfire on Saturday in the Bhimber sector of the Line of Control (LoC), one of the most heavily militarised zones in the world that separates Kashmir between Pakistani- and Indian-controlled areas, a statement from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

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The ISPR did not say whether there were any casualties on either side.

The exchange of fire came after Ban urged “both sides to exercise maximum restraint and take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation”, his spokesman said late on Friday.

Earlier in the day, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that the UN chief was following the situation “with great concern” and “would welcome all proposals” or initiatives aimed at de-escalation.

Tensions remain high between the two countries following the killing of 18 Indian soldiers nearly two weeks ago.

Ban’s offer came after Pakistan’s ambassador met the UN chief and urged him to personally intervene, while India said it did not want to aggravate the situation.

“This is a dangerous moment for the region,” Pakistan’s Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi told AFP news agency after meeting Ban at the UN headquarters in New York.

“The time has come for bold intervention by him if we are to avoid a crisis, because we can see a crisis building up.”

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Lodhi accused India of creating “conditions that pose a threat to regional and international peace and security”.

India on Thursday said it had carried out “surgical strikes” several kilometres inside Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on what they called “terrorist” targets.

In response to India’s statement, Pakistan insisted that the incident was not a “surgical strike” but “cross-border fire”.

“The notion of surgical strike linked to alleged terrorists’ bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by India to create false effects,” the Pakistani military said in a statement.

“This quest by the Indian establishment to create media hype by rebranding cross-border fire as surgical strike is fabrication of the truth.”

‘No desire to aggravate the situation’

In a statement to AFP, India’s mission to the UN said “India has no desire to aggravate the situation”, and that “our response was a measured counter-terrorist strike.

“It was focused in terms of targets and geographical space,” the mission said. “It is reflective of our desire to respond proportionately to clear an imminent threat posed by terrorists in that instance.

“With our objectives having been met, that effort has since ceased.”

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the two countries gained independence from British rule in 1947. Both claim the territory in its entirety.

Rebel groups have for decades fought Indian soldiers – currently numbering about 500,000 – demanding independence for the region or its merger with Pakistan.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies