KARACHI: Amid rising tension in the region over India-held Kashmir, Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned of military escalation from India which will force Pakistan to respond. He termed the situation “alarming” for the world.

In an interview with The New York Times published on Wednesday, Prime Minister Khan expressed concern that India might undertake a deceptive “false flag operation” in held Kashmir to try to justify military action against Pakistan, adding that Pakistan would be forced to respond.

“And then you are looking at two nuclear-armed countries eyeball to eyeball, and anything can happen. My worry is that this can escalate and for two nuclear-armed countries, it should be alarming for the world what we are facing now,” he said.

The prime minister’s remarks come after India stripped the Kashmiris of their seven-decade-long special autonomy through a rushed presidential order on August 5. A communications blackout and heavy restrictions on movement imposed by the Indian authorities from the eve of this development entered their 18th day on Thursday.

In an interview with NYT, Imran says there is no point in talking to Indians

The premier said that there was “no point” in talking to Indian officials, adding his overtures for peace and dialogue with New Delhi had proven futile so far.

“There is no point in talking to them. I mean, I have done all the talking. Unfor­tunately, now when I look back, all the overtures that I was making for peace and dialogue, I think they took it for appeasement,” he said.

During the interview at the Prime Minister Office in Islamabad — which the NYT said was Mr Khan’s first with an international news organisation aimed at publicising anger over the situation in held Kashmir — he said: “There is nothing more that we can do.”

The premier said the most important thing was that the lives of eight million people were at risk. “We are all worried that there is ethnic cleansing and genocide about to happen.”

The premier described Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “a fascist and Hindu supremacist who intends to eradicate Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population and populate the region with Hindus”.

Mr Khan spoke to NYT a day after he said he had spoken by phone to US President Donald Trump and told him of a “potentially very explosive situation” between Pakistan and India.

In his interview, he demanded that United Nations peacekeepers and observers be allowed in held Kashmir.

According to NYT, the Indian government did not immediately respond to Prime Minister Khan’s comments. Indian Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla, however, rejected the criticism.

“Our experience has been that every time we have taken an initiative towards peace, it has turned out badly for us,” he said, adding: “We expect Pakistan to take credible, irreversible and verifiable action against terrorism.”

The ambassador claimed that things were going “back to normal” in held Kashmir.

“Restrictions are being eased based on the ground situation. Public utility services, banks and hospitals are functioning normally,” he claimed. “There are adequate food stocks. Some restrictions on communication are in the interests of safety and security of the citizenry.”

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2019