Pakistan warns of potential refugee crisis in Kashmir

Ambassador Asad says Taliban talks only way to find peace in Afghanistan

By: News Desk      Published: 02:51 PM, 5 Feb, 2020
Pakistan warns of potential refugee crisis in Kashmir

Pakistan’s top diplomat in Washington slammed India’s actions in recent months in Occupied Kashmir, warned of a potential refugee crisis if the Kashmir dispute isn’t resolved peacefully and urged the US and Iran to cool tensions or risk further destabilisation of a fragile region.

In an interview with Washington Times, Pakistani Ambassador to the US Asad M Khan also said that Pakistan is thankful for White House efforts to tamp down conflicts between Pakistan and India over Kashmir.

He said Indian leaders are strategically positioning Pakistan as a villain for their domestic political purposes. “They use Pakistan as a punching bag, and they want to escalate,” he said and added “That is now a set pattern. I think that doesn’t really bode well for long-term peace and stability.”

In August, Indian government imposed a curfew over much of Indian-occupied Kashmir, and Delhi revoked the Muslim-majority territory’s special status as a semi-autonomous state. Khan and other Pakistani officials have accused the Indian government of keeping out journalists and international observers, crushing the region’s tourism industry, essentially shutting off the area and holding large numbers of Kashmiris hostage in a de facto prison.

“If you are not allowing anyone to come in, the daily wages, those who work in the hospitality industry, all those jobs are gone,” he said. “So there is a serious economic crisis on top of the humanitarian crisis that Indian actions have generated.”

President Trump is set to visit India, but not Pakistan, at the end of the month, and speculation is mounting over what the US president will say to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding the long stalemate over Kashmir.

In the wide-ranging conversation with The Times, Ambassador Asad Khan said America has exhausted all of its military options in Afghanistan and is left with little choice but to forge ahead in peace talks with the Taliban.

Khan said the two sides have reached a crucial moment — despite continued Taliban attacks and a spike in American strikes against the militants top targets — to solidify a ceasefire agreement that could wind down two decades of conflict and bring to a close the longest war in US history.

 “What is the alternative?” Khan said. “There is no military solution. You have tried it with a much larger military presence there, and that did not result in peace.”

Khan said a deal between the US and Taliban leaders is easier than the next step: formal talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government.

Khan said this year represents a golden opportunity. The complexities and conflicts among major players in the region will only grow over time, he said. “The geopolitical situation, frankly, today is more complicated than it was five years ago,” he said. “Who knows in a couple of years what it would be like?”

To a question, the ambassador said Iranian animosity toward the US or its chief regional foe, Saudi Arabia, could spill into Afghanistan and make peace negotiations even more complicated. “That, in a way, underpins our desire to see peace and tensions between the US and Iran — and also tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia — defused,” he said. “Because if that does not happen, those rivalries play out wherever and whatever places they can play out.”

Khan said Pakistan, which sees itself as the victim of jihadi violence and instability spilling over its long, porous border with Afghanistan, will do whatever it can to facilitate a US-Taliban deal.