UNITED NATIONS (AN) — Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan took his nation's bitter dispute over Jammu and Kashmir to the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, accusing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of cruelty towards Muslims and warning of a potential "bloodbath" in the region.
Since gaining their independence from the British 72 years ago, nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India fought each other in three wars, including two for control of Jammu and Kashmir. Hindu-majority Jammu has 6 million people; Muslim-majority Kashmir has 8 million people.
Now there are 900,000 Indian troops in the Kashmir valley and "they haven't come to — as Narendra Modi says — for the prosperity of Kashmir," said Khan.
“What’s he going to do when he lifts the curfew? Does he think the people of Kashmir are quietly going to accept the status quo?” the Pakistani leader said at the United Nations. “What is going to happen when the curfew is lifted will be a bloodbath.”
In his speech to world leaders, Modi, who spoke an hour before Khan, did not specifically mention the decision by Modi's Hindu nationalist government in August to downgrade Jammu and Kashmir’s limited autonomy — which Modi claims was misused by terrorists and separatists — and to impose a military curfew and cut off residents from all communications and the internet. Instead, Modi said, India is "a voice against terrorism" globally.
“We belong to a country that has given the world not war, but Buddha’s message of peace," said Modi. "And that is the reason why our voice against terrorism, to alert the world about this evil, rings with seriousness and outrage.”
'Not a threat' but 'a fair worry'
The Jammu and Kashmir region was independent when British colonizers departed. It became part of India in wartime, when Pakistan tried to take control of it in 1947. But for six decades, until August, Jammu and Kashmir held a protected political status under the Indian constitution.
The provisions had permitted the region to make its own laws and fly its own flag. Insurgents have contested Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. Hindu nationalist Modi’s election in 2014 and a deadly terrorist attack on Indian security personnel in February inflamed India’s tensions with Pakistan, whose population is nearly all Muslim.
“When a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, it will have consequences far beyond the borders. It will have consequences for the world,” Khan told world leaders in New York.
"If a conventional war starts between the two countries, anything could happen," said Khan. "That's not a threat, it's a fair worry. Where are we headed?"
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said his nation, as a neighbor to both Pakistan and India, hoped their bitter tensions will be "effectively managed" with some "stability restored to the relationship between the two sides.”
Last month, the U.N. Security Council met to formally discuss Jammu and Kashmir for the first time in almost a half-century, signaling the intense stakes as protests and clashes with police intensified.
Prodded by China and Pakistan, the 15-nation council held closed-door talks on the extraordinary security crackdown in the Indian-controlled region. Pakistan sought support from the United Nations, including the Security Council and International Court of Justice, for pressuring India into restoring autonomy among Indian-administered portions of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistani officials also said they would downgrade their diplomatic relations and suspend trade with India, bringing the two nuclear-armed neighbors closer to renewed war over the Himalayan region that both countries claim.