Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan warned the U.N. in stark terms Friday of the threat of a “bloodbath” in Kashmir, where 8 million Kashmiris have been locked in “like animals.”
The Indian-controlled part of Kashmir has been under lockdown since New Delhi scrapped its semi-autonomous status in early August, violating several U.N. resolutions. The prime minister said Kashmir is a test for the U.N. to restore its credibility by giving right of self-determination.
Khan said Indian armed forces in Kashmir would turn on the population after the curfew was lifted.
“There are 900,000 troops there, they haven’t come to, as Narendra Modi says — for the prosperity of Kashmir… These 900,000 troops, what are they going to do? When they come out? There will be a bloodbath,” Khan told the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
He added that there could be a repeat of the fighting between the nuclear-armed neighbors seen in February if India blamed Pakistan for any home-grown militant attacks in response to the repression in the Muslim-majority territory.
“If a conventional war starts between the two countries, anything could happen. But supposing a country seven times smaller than its neighbor is faced with the choice: either you surrender, or you fight for your freedom till death?” Khan said.
“What will we do? I ask myself these questions. We will fight… and when a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, it will have consequences far beyond the borders.”
He warned the “ultra-nationalist agenda” of the Indian government threatens peace in the region, citing the death of Mahatma Gandhi at the hands of the same “ideology of hate.”
Prime Minister Modi spoke earlier but did not explicitly mention Kashmir, choosing instead to focus on domestic policies such as development and sanitation.
He did however make an oblique reference to Pakistan, telling fellow leaders: “We belong to a country that has given the world, not war, but Buddha’s message of peace.
“And that is the reason why our voice against terrorism, to alert the world about this evil rings with seriousness and outrage,” the Indian leader said.
Khan dedicated a significant part of his address to raise awareness about anti-Muslim hatred.
“No religion preaches terrorism,” Khan said and warned against associating Islam with terrorism or extremism.
“The basis of all religions is compassion and justice which differentiates us from the animal kingdom.”
Khan earlier in the week thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for raising the Kashmir issue in his address Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly.
“We are very thankful that the president has taken a very principled stance,” Khan told reporters, adding that Pakistan has “very good relationship” with Turkey.
He also said Erdoğan will visit Islamabad next month.
Erdoğan told the body only dialogue can find a solution to the Kashmir issue that he said awaits a solution for 72 years.
“In order for the Kashmiri people to look at a safe future together with their Pakistani and Indian neighbors, it is imperative to solve the problem through dialogue and on the basis of justice and equity, but not through collision,” said Erdoğan.