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No point talking to Indian officials: Imran Khan

22 August, 2019

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ISLAMABAD:  Prime Minister Imran Khan has said there is "no point" talking to Indian officials, adding that his overtures for peace and dialogue with New Delhi so far have proven futile.

In an interview with The New York Times journalists Salman Masood and Maria Abi-Habib, published on Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran said: "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."

During the interview at the Prime Minister's Office in Islamabad, which NYT said was Imran's first with an international news organisation aimed at publicising anger over the situation in occupied Kashmir, the premier said: "There is nothing more that we can do."

The prime minister's remarks come 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-occupied Kashmir since then.

The prime minister said that the "most important thing" was that the lives of eight million people were at risk. "We are all worried that there is ethnic cleansing and genocide about to happen."

The premier described Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as "a fascist and Hindu supremacist who intends to eradicate Kashmir's mostly Muslim population and populate the region with Hindus".

Prime Minister Imran, in his messages on Twitter since India's move to annex occupied Kashmir, has repeatedly said that the Indian government's policy in the Himalayan region is in line with the "ideology" of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) party — said to be a parent organisation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — that believes in "Hindu supremacy".

While speaking to NYT, he expressed concern that India might undertake a deceptive "false-flag operation" in Kashmir to try to justify military action against Pakistan, adding that Pakistan would be forced to respond.

“And then you are looking at two nuclear-armed countries eyeball to eyeball, and anything can happen. “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.”

On August 14, while addressing a special session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly, the premier had warned Modi that any action by India in Pakistan would be countered with a stronger response.

According to the article, the premier demanded that United Nations peacekeepers and observers be allowed in occupied Kashmir.

According to NYT, the Indian government did not immediately respond to Prime Minister Imran'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."

Read: US urges India to free detainees, restore rights in occupied Kashmir

The ambassador also claimed that things were going "back to normal" in occupied Kashmir.

"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."

Ordinary people in the region, however, continue to feel the impact of the restrictions.

Nazir Ahmad, a retired engineer who lives in Srinagar, told The Associated Press on Saturday that residents were still facing difficulties in buying items such as vegetables, milk and medicine. He said his father is sick and needs a constant supply of medicine, which the family is finding difficult to procure.

“There is no internet, no telephone, no communication, no transportation,” said Ahmad, describing the situation as living through a “siege.”

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