Pakistan says India ‘escalating tensions’ after threat to take over all of Kashmir

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Pakistan has accused India of “escalating tensions”, after a senior minister in the Modi administration suggested India could take control of the part of Kashmir run by Islamabad.

With the row between the two neighbouring countries set to take centre stage at the UN General Assembly at the end of this month, the two again traded blows over the disputed region.

Pakistan has repeatedly spoken out over the communications and movement lockdown that has remained in place in Indian administered Kashmir since 5 August, accusing Delhi of denying the region’s majority-Muslim population freedom of religious expression and other rights.

And speaking on Wednesday during a ceremony at Pakistan’s Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan, prime minister Imran Khan said there could be “no chance of talks” with India until the curfew in Kashmir was lifted.

India controls about 45 per cent of what was the pre-independence kingdom of Kashmir, with Pakistan controlling about a third, and China the rest. Both India and Pakistan claim the region in its entirety. 

On Tuesday, India’s foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told a news conference that what Delhi refers to as “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” (POK) is “part of India and we expect one day that we will have the jurisdiction, physical jurisdiction over it”.

Mr Jaishankar insisted that “our position on POK is, has always been and will always be very clear”.

But analysts characterised the statement, coming from a normally measured career diplomat, as the first time in years that an Indian foreign minister openly discussed taking physical possession of Pakistan administered Kashmir.

Indian policy on the matter generally refers back to a 1994 resolution on Kashmir, passed by both houses of parliament, which only goes as far as demanding Pakistan “must vacate the areas… which they have occupied through aggression”.

In a statement, Pakistan’s foreign affairs ministry condemned Mr Jaishankar’s remarks.

It said: “Coming from an occupying state, such irresponsible and belligerent statements have the potential to further escalate tensions and seriously jeopardise peace and security in the region.

“Pakistan stands for peace, but would be ready to respond effectively to any act of aggression.”

Donald Trump has previously offered to “help” and “mediate” between the two nuclear-armed countries that have twice gone to war over Kashmir in the past. He even suggested India’s Narendra Modi had requested he do so – despite it being Delhi’s firm position that the matter must be dealt with bilaterally with Islamabad. Officials in India later suggested Mr Trump must have been mistaken.

Mr Jaishankar’s comments followed those of India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh, who said last month that “if talks are held with Pakistan, it will now be on POK” – not Indian administered Kashmir.

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