UNITED NATIONS: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday that war with India was not an option and he was willing to try every option but the war.

At a news briefing at the United Nations headquarters, the prime minister also rejected India’s claim that Pakistan planned to send 500 militants into India-occupied Kashmir.

“We cannot attack India. That’s not an option,” said Mr Khan when asked what options he would utilise once he returns home after attending the ongoing session of the UN General Assembly.

“Apart from that we are doing everything else. Apart from war we are trying every other option,” he said. “But I am not disappointed. I know this would eventually end up in freedom for the people of Kashmir.”

In his opening statement, the prime minister said his main reason for attending the UNGA was to “highlight the plight of Kashmiris” and to come here he had to leave behind a lot of pressing engagements that needed his attention.

Says he is hopeful that Kashmiris will eventually win freedom

Mr Khan said that in the meetings he has so far had with world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, he underlined two key points: no matter what the Indians did, the situation will get worse and if it does, it would lead to a face-to-face confrontation between two nuclear-armed states.

Mr Khan said that for the last 50 days, Kashmiris have been living under siege, enforced by almost 900,000 Indian troops, including those brought in on and after Aug 5, when India annexed the occupied valley.

“This is unprecedented, eight million people in a state of siege. There are 11 UN resolutions that recognise Kashmir as a disputed territory and give the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir,” he said. “And yet, that right was never given to them in the last 70 years.”

Mr Khan said India had annexed Kashmir to change its demography, which was against the Geneva convention and considered a war crime.

The prime minister said the people of Kashmir would never accept the Indian annexation and “when the curfew is lifted, with 900,000 Indian soldiers there, there will be a massacre”.

He said another fear was whatever happened, the Indians would blame Pakistan, recalling New Delhi’s move to blame Islamabad for the attack on an Indian army contingent in Pulwama in February, although they knew the suicide bomber had no connection to Pakistan.

“I asked for proofs (of Pakistan’s alleged involvement,” but before any proofs could come, Indian jets arrived,” said the prime minister, explaining how the Indians used this incident as an excuse to attack a town inside Pakistan.

And when Pakistan freed the Indian pilot whose plane was shot down inside Pakistan, the Indians did not treat that “as a gesture of peace but as a sign of weakness, saying that we released him because we were scared of India”.

Mr Khan said India was now being ruled by a group called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which was responsible for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and which butchered thousands of Muslims in Gujarat. “This is not Gandhi’s or Nehru’s India. This is RSS and BJP’s India,” he said. “I know what’s going on there and that’s why I am alarmed.”

He said he had shared his fears with President Trump and other world leaders, including from the Muslim world, telling them that they must disengage these two nuclear-armed countries because a conflict between them would have disastrous consequences for all.

Replying to India’s allegation that Pakistan planned to send militants into occupied Kashmir, he wondered: “What can 500 militants do against 900,000 troops? What possible gains can Pakistan have?”

He said sending militants would hurt Pakistan and also give an excuse to India to tighten its grip over Kashmiris and commit more atrocities. “They blame Pakistan, but what could be worse than this state-sponsored terrorism that India has unleashed in Kashmir?” he asked.

“I hope before I leave (for home), the international community and the UN would have realised their responsibility. I would urge world leaders to go beyond this obsession with big markets and trade,” he said.

“If ever the Security Council wants to move, now is the time to do so. Eight million people have been locked in for 50 days. What could be worse? This is as bad as it gets.”

The prime minister said in his Sept. 27 speech, he would ask the United Nations that “if there’s a massacre, how would they react? There is going to be radicalisation. This is going to get worse. Kashmiris will not accept the annexation. There’s every likelihood that there will be a massacre and the world community will be responsible.”

Mr Khan said the international community appeared more interested in a big market than in human rights.

“I am disappointed, as a human being, how can the world community stay quiet when eight million people are treated worse than animals? How can they prefer trade to human lives.

“My simple message to all those looking for a big market: This can go terribly wrong. I told the Indians once a conflict starts between two nuclear-armed countries, it can go beyond my and your prime minister’s control.”

The prime minister thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for raising the Kashmir issue in his speech on Tuesday and urged other world leaders to do so.

Mr Khan said he was looking forward to more talks with Mr Erdogan when he visits Pakistan next month.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2019