Prime Minister Imran Khan has intensified his criticism of India over its Kashmir crackdown, saying he will no longer seek dialogue with Indian officials and raising the threat of a military escalation between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
In an interview with The New York Times, Imran Khan complained bitterly about what he described as repeated rebuffs from Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India at his entreaties for communication, both before and after the Aug 5 crackdown on the Held Kashmir. “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,” the prime minister said during the interview at the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad. “There is nothing more that we can do.”
Imran Khan’s interview with The Times was his first with an international news organization aimed at publicizing his anger over what is happening in Kashmir – and it appeared to reflect his frustration at what he views as India’s intransigence. Echoing what he and his subordinates have said on social media and in news outlets, Imran Khan described Modi as a fascist and Hindu supremacist who intends to eradicate Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population and populate the region with Hindus. “The most important thing is that eight million people’s lives are at risk. We are all worried that there is ethnic cleansing and genocide about to happen,” he said.
Imran Khan expressed concern that India might undertake a deceptive ‘false-flag operation’ in Kashmir to try to justify military action against Pakistan. And Pakistan, he said, will be forced to respond. “And then you are looking at two nuclear-armed countries eyeball to eyeball, and anything can happen,” he said. “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 added.
Imran Khan demanded that United Nations peacekeepers and observers be allowed in Indian-held Kashmir, and he repeatedly insisted that Modi intended to carry out a genocide of Kashmiri Muslims.
The prime minister’s remarks come days after India stripped 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 the intervention entered their 18th day on Thursday. At least 4,000 people have been detained in Indian-held Kashmir since then.
According to NYT, the Indian government did not immediately respond to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s comments. The 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 also claimed that things were going ‘back to normal’ in the occupied valley. “Restrictions are being eased based on the ground situation. Public utility services, banks and hospitals are functioning normally,” he said. “There are adequate food stocks. Some restrictions on communication are in the interests of safety and security of the citizenry,” he added.
Pakistan has repeatedly denounced India’s Hindu nationalist government for terminating the autonomy of the India-held Kashmir in an abrupt move more than two weeks ago. Indian soldiers and police officers have been accused of using excessive force on Kashmiri civilians, and have detained the territory’s political leadership, drawing strong criticism from rights groups and the United Nations. International rights groups and Kashmiris say ordinary citizens are unable to reach hospitals because of Indian security checkpoints, and medical and food stocks ran low shortly after India stripped the region of its autonomy this month.
In their litany of accusations, Imran Khan and his cabinet ministers have likened the New Delhi government to Nazi Germany and claimed that a genocide is unfolding in the territory.