“I fear that [India] is in search of a false-flag operation […] which it can use to again point fingers at Pakistan” (Qureshi)
DESPARDES — Tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir have the potential to blow up into a regional crisis and it is the right time for U.S. President Donald Trump to mediate, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday.
Khan’s comments come a day after Pakistan accused India of using illegal cluster bombs, killing two civilians and wounding 11, in the disputed Kashmir region. India denied it had used such weapons.
“President Trump offered to mediate on Kashmir. This is the time to do so as situation deteriorates there and along the LOC (line of control) with new aggressive actions being taken by Indian occupation forces,” Khan said on Twitter, referring to the heavily militarized de facto border that divides the two parts of Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
“This has the potential to blow up into a regional crisis,” Khan said.
India’s foreign affairs ministry and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Reuters on Khan’s remarks.
In July, Trump told reporters that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him during a meeting in Japan if he would like to be a mediator on Kashmir. India denied Modi ever asked for any mediation.
Muslim-majority Kashmir, claimed by both India and Pakistan, has long been a bone of contention between the two.
India accuses Pakistan of funding armed militants, as well as separatist groups in India’s portion of the region. Islamabad denies the Indian accusation, saying it provides only diplomatic and moral support to a separatist movement.
Tensions have escalated particularly since Friday, when local Indian officials in Kashmir issued an alert over possible militant attacks. Thousands of Indian tourists, pilgrims and workers left the region in panic.
On Sunday, Kashmir remained on high alert with Indian para-military forces deployed across major towns. One senior local official told Reuters a curfew was likely next week.
The local government on Friday said they had intelligence inputs of militant attacks and called off a major Hindu pilgrimage (Amarnath Yatra), asking pilgrims and tourists to return home.
Hospitals have been put on alert, with staff told not to leave the city without permission.
Over 30,000 Indian forces, mostly CRPF personnel, are being deployed in different parts of the occupied valley, in addition to 500,000 boots already on ground.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday said he feared that some forces would play the role of “spoilers” in view of the worsening situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir and as the Afghan peace talks entered a “critical stage”.
The US and Taliban are holding ‘crucial talks’ in Doha and senior officials privy to the talks said a peace agreement could be expected at the end of the eighth round of talks, possibly before Aug. 13, and would enable foreign forces to be withdrawn from the war-torn country
Last week, Qureshi highlighted the sudden moves being made by Delhi in occupied Kashmir, and said, “Afghan situation cannot be viewed in isolation from situation on eastern border‘.
Talking to a private news channel on Saturday, Qureshi said India was “in a state of panic” following Trump’s offer to mediate the Kashmir dispute and PM Khan’s successful visit to Washington. “I fear that [India] is in search of a false-flag operation […] which it can use to again point fingers at Pakistan,” the foreign minister added.
Qureshi said he had expressed similar concerns in a letter to the United Nations secretary-general.