Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan warned citizens Wednesday that anyone who goes to fight jihad in Kashmir will hurt the territory’s cause, as anger simmers between Islamabad and New Delhi over the disputed region.
Indian authorities are waiting for “any excuse” to crack down in the Himalayan region, he warned, promising again to raise the issue at the United Nations General Assembly next week.
Tensions have spiked over Kashmir, parts of which are administered by both India and Pakistan, since Delhi moved on August 5 to revoke the autonomy of the portion it controls.
Since then, leaders in both countries have engaged in an escalating war of words, with Delhi warning that Pakistan – long believed to be using proxy militant groups in Kashmir – was planning attacks.
Islamabad has promised to stand by the Kashmiris following the move and publicly accused India of carrying out a potential “genocide” in the region.
India has flooded its side of Kashmir with troops in a security clampdown to prevent any violence, igniting outrage in Pakistan.
“If someone from Pakistan goes to India to fight … he will be the first to do an injustice to Kashmiris, he will be the enemy of Kashmiris,” Khan said during a speech in Torkham, on the border with Afghanistan.
“They need an excuse,” he said of Indian troops. “It will provide them an excuse for torture and barbarism.”
Kashmir, split between the two countries since 1947, has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between them.
Khan spoke after Pakistan fired back Wednesday at Delhi’s “jingoistic rhetoric” when India’s foreign minister vowed to retake Islamabad’s portion of Kashmir.
“We strongly condemn and reject” the remarks, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement hours after Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told a press conference Tuesday that Pakistani-controlled Kashmir is “part of India and we expect one day that we will have the … physical jurisdiction over it”.
Pakistan denies airspace to Modi
In the latest move, Pakistan said Wednesday it had denied Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi permission to fly through its airspace due to the “situation in Indian occupied Kashmir”.
“Keeping in mind the situation in Indian occupied Kashmir and India’s behavior and the cruelty and barbarism, the violation of rights being done there, it has been decided that the Indian PM will not be allowed,” to use Pakistan’s airspace, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a video statement posted on social media.
Qureshi said Modi had requested to use Pakistani airspace on September 20 and 28 for a trip to and from Germany.
New Delhi regretted the decision, Raveesh Kumar, a spokesman for the Indian government, said.
“Pakistan should reflect upon its decision to deviate from well established international practice, as well as reconsider its old habit of misrepresenting the reasons for taking unilateral action,” he added in a statement.
Tensions have spiraled since New Delhi’s move on its side of the de facto border – the Line of Control – to change the status of the Himalayan territory, with Pakistan repeatedly likening Modi to Hitler and calling for international intervention.
Khan has held demonstrations across the country to protest against the move and will highlight the issue later this month at the UN General Assembly in New York.