Pakistan‘s foreign minister has warned that India‘s “illegal occupation” of Muslim-majority Kashmir region could drive the two nuclear-armed countries “into an accidental war”, while also accusing New Delhi of turning Kashmir “into the largest prison on this planet”.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, lashed out at New Delhi amid heightened tensions since August 5 – the day Indian government changed the status of the disputed part of the region it governs.
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The Hindu nationalist government in New Delhi placed the region under a military lockdown and implemented a communications blackout in advance of the move which has crippled life in the Muslim-majority region.
Talking to reporters after his speech, Qureshi accused India of “acting irresponsibly” and “being belligerent”.
“If there is a false flag operation, which we fear, and they use it as a pretext and carry out some misadventure against Pakistan, we will respond and we will respond with force,” said Qureshi.
“And, you never know, we could be into an accidental war.”
The Pakistani official also alleged that torture and rape were occurring in the region that was also facing a shortage of medicines, as well as a food crisis.
“I shudder to mention the word genocide here, but I must,” he said. “One international civil society organisation, based in the US, has already issued a genocide alert, proclaiming that the situation in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir has crossed the 10 stages of the genocidal process.”
The conflict over Kashmir has existed since the late 1940s, when India and Pakistan won independence from British colonial rule. The countries have fought two of their three subsequent wars over Kashmir, and each administers a portion of the region.
New Delhi initially grappled with largely peaceful anti-India movements in its portion of Kashmir.
However, a series of political blunders, broken promises and a crackdown on dissent escalated the conflict into a full-blown armed rebellion against Indian control in 1989 for a united Kashmir, either under Pakistan rule or independent of both.
Since then, about 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which India sees as a proxy war by Pakistan.
Qureshi said the increasing tension cannot be resolved bilaterally, adding that Pakistan had suggested a number of “bilateral and multilateral mechanisms” that would disprove India’s claims, including proposals to “double the strength of the UN Observers Mission to monitor the Line of Control” – all which India has rejected.
On Monday, US President Donald Trump reiterated that his offer to mediate between the nuclear-armed neighbours still stands.
“India and Pakistan are having a conflict over Kashmir as you know. I think it’s a little bit less heated right now than it was two weeks ago and I’m willing to help them,” Trump said in response to a question from a reporter.
“I get along with both countries very well. I’m willing to help them if they want, they know that is out there.”
Trump first made the offer to mediate in July while hosting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Washington – where he said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked him to intervene on the decades-long Kashmir dispute with Pakistan, a claim New Delhi rejected.
In response, Khan, who was on his first trip to the US as prime minister, told Trump he will have “the prayers of a billion people” on the Indian subcontinent if he was able to resolve the Kashmir issue.