ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Saturday spoke to United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and urged the world body to play its role for alleviating sufferings of the Kashmiris in India-held valley.

Later at a press conference, Mr Qureshi said that Secretary General Gutterres had promised to speak to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the situation in held Kashmir on the sidelines of the G-7 Summit in Biarritz, France.

Mr Modi has been invited as a guest by French Pre­sident Emmanuel Macron to the G-7 Summit, which got under way on Saturday.

Growing tensions between Pakistan and India over Kashmir in the aftermath of annexation of the occupied valley by Delhi is likely to feature in several meetings on the margins of the event, including the one between US President Donald Trump and Mr Modi.

FM says Guterres promises to speak to Modi on situation in occupied valley

Foreign Minister Qureshi in his conversation drew the attention of the UN secretary general towards aggravating human rights situation in held Kashmir, emerging humanitarian crisis due to prolonged curfew and communications blackout, and threats to peace and security of the region due to the dispute.

He especially referred to the Indian government’s move to prevent their opposition leaders led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from visiting the valley for assessing the situation there.

Mr Qureshi reiterated the fear that India might stage a ‘false flag’ operation to malign Pakistan and discredit Kashmiri uprising in the valley. Prime Minister Imran Khan had mentioned the same fear a day earlier in a tweet and later in his telephonic conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. However, it was the first time that the government directly conveyed its concern to the UN secretary general.

The foreign minister asked the UN to play its role to save the Kashmiris from Indian oppression. In this regard he proposed several steps, including interventions for lifting of curfew in the valley, saving lives, and stopping demographic change. He said the UN secretary general was asked to regularly update the members of the Security Council on the aggravating situation involving two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Underscoring the role of the UN, he said, the world body carried substantive “moral weight”.

Mr Qureshi said that UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet should visit the region and play “lead role in protecting Kashmiris and averting humanitarian crisis”. Pakistan was ready to facilitate Ms Bachelet’s visit to Azad Kashmir, he added.

The FM had a day earlier written a letter to the top UN human rights official urging her to call upon India to end rights abuses in Occupied Kashmir.

The foreign minister told Mr Gutterres that the Kashmiris were looking to the international community for support and cautioned that if the world failed them they could resort to “all means” for achieving their right to self-determination.

He thanked the UN secretary general for his earlier statement on Kashmir dispute.

Mr Gutterres had in his statement issued on Aug 8 recalled the Security Council resolutions on the Kashmir dispute, and the commitment under Simla Agreement to peacefully resolve the dispute. He had also expressed concerns about the restrictions imposed by Indian authorities which could exacerbate the human rights situation. Significantly, the UN secretary general had called for refraining from steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office in a statement said that Mr Gutterres assured FM Qureshi that he was closely monitoring the situation and would remain engaged on the evolving developments.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2019