Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday leveraged an opening provided by US President Donald Trump for mediation to sort out the Kashmir dispute and called for outside help for solving the issue, even as the Indian Army asked Pakistan to take back the bodies of five intruders shot in Kashmir’s Keran sector last week.
Tensions have been running high in Kashmir for the past 10 days with both countries accusing each other of firing across the de facto Line of Control (LoC) and India saying that it had killed a group of Pakistani Army regulars and terrorists who were trying to sneak into India to ambush its soldiers. The heightening of tensions comes after a two-month lull in cross-border firing and shelling, according to the Indian Army.
Home minister Amit Shah discussed the situation in Kashmir at a meeting in New Delhi on Sunday with national security adviser Ajit Doval and home secretary Rajiv Gauba, following the warning to tourists and pilgrims to leave the state against the backdrop of perceived threats of a terrorist attack. Shah is also set to visit Kashmir this week after the ongoing Parliament session ends on 7 August.
In his tweets on Sunday, Khan condemned India’s cross-border shelling, which he alleged targeted innocent civilians in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. He also slammed India’s use of cluster munitions “in violation of international humanitarian law and its own commitments under the 1983 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. UNSC must take note of this international threat to peace and security," he said.
Khan said that the “only road to peace and security in South Asia runs through a peaceful and just settlement of Kashmir". “President Trump offered to mediate on Kashmir. This is the time to do so as situation deteriorates there and along the LoC with new aggressive actions being taken by Indian occupation forces. This has the potential to blow up into a regional crisis," he said. The Pakistani prime minister was referring to a meeting between him and Trump on 22 July during which the US president said he would be willing to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. The meeting between Khan and Trump discussed the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, with Pakistan promising to broker a peace deal with the Taliban.
Khan on Sunday also chaired a meeting of the National Security Committee, with the country’s top civil and military leadership, over the sudden surge in tensions with India, according to a PTI report. His tweets followed similar posts by Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and others on Saturday, which the Indian Army dismissed as “lies, deceit and deception."
India’s foreign ministry did not immediately comment on Khan’s demands for mediation. However, New Delhi has always maintained that Kashmir is a dispute to be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan. The most recent iteration of the Indian position came after Trump on 22 July said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate in the Kashmir dispute. India immediately denied that Modi had made any such statement and said that Kashmir would be dealt with bilaterally by India and Pakistan.
Earlier on Sunday, the Indian Army informed the Pakistani Army that it can approach with white flags and take back the bodies of five members of its Border Action Team, usually comprising army regulars and terrorists , who were killed while they were trying to cross the LoC into India and ambush Indian troops on patrol. Photographs issued to the media showed the bodies lying on the Indian side of the LoC.
However, Pakistan Army spokesman Asif Ghafoor described the Indian Army statement as “mere propaganda" and said that India was “trying to divert attention of the world from the situation of Kashmir." The Pakistani foreign office in a statement issued overnight Sunday said, “We reject Indian allegations of cross-LoC action by Pakistan and possession of bodies".
Meanwhile, heavy cross-border firing continued in Keran sector, a person familiar with the development said. In the past few days, Pakistan has made many attempts to revive terrorism and push terrorists from the Jaish e Mohammed and other groups into India, the Indian Army said on Saturday. At least four terrorists were killed in the past few days and many attempts have been made by Pakistan to target the Amarnath pilgrimage in Kashmir, it said. India has already moved additional security personnel to Kashmir and asked pilgrims and tourists to go home in view of the threat of attacks by terrorists.
About 10,000 additional troops were sent to Jammu and Kashmir last week after a visit to the state by Doval.
The state witnessed encounters between militants and security forces over the last one week in south Kashmir’s Shopian and Pulwama districts, said a senior state government official on condition of anonymity.
The heightened security alert had resulted in people in Kashmir queuing up outside fuel stations, ATMs, chemist and grocery shops anticipating a shortage of essential items.
Shaswati Das contributed to this story.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.