NEW YORK, Oct. 01 (APP):Azad Kashmir President Masood Khan has warned that a deteriorating security situation in the disputed Kashmir region had the potential to escalate into a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan, and urged the U.N. and the world community to deal with the crisis.
In an interview with NEWSWEEK, a leading American weekly magazine, he described the situation at the Line-of-Control (LoC) as “volatile.”
“We have beefed up security, we remain vigilant,” Masood Khan said, arguing that “India with its aggressive and aggravating steps has pushed the region to the brink of war.”
“We are in a state of war right now, but the situation could escalate even further,” he added. “Any military exchange will not remain limited, it can and we fear it would escalate to the nuclear level, that is tantamount to nuclear armageddon.”
The Azad Kashmir president warning came days after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan devoted much of his speech Friday at the United Nations General Assembly to call for international support in condemning India’s controversial move to annex occupied Kashmir.
About Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s claim that Pakistan was using terrorists to deal with the Kashmir issue, Masood Khan said, “There’s no industry of terrorism coming out of Pakistan or Azad Kashmir, that’s an absolutely false accusation and they know it. We’ve been fighting terrorism and we’ve had successes.”
He said such claims may have rung true “in the 1990s, when mujahideen would go across the Line of Control and young men from the occupied territory were coming to Pakistan for help, but that came to a stop in 2004.” Today, he said, “this has no credibility, they use this terminology which has some traction with the Western audience.”
The situation in on the ground in occupied Kashmir, however, was reportedly getting worse, with stories of arbitrary detentions, a media blackout and instances of violence among a population that Masood Khan told Newsweek was “seething with anger, trapped in their homes.” He explained: “The entire territory is under siege, security lockdowns, long curfews, thousands of Kashmiris have been arrested.
Echoing previous comments given to Newsweek by senior Pakistani officials such as Azad Kashmir Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, as well as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. Asad Majeed Khan, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Special Assistant for Overseas Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Masood Khan expressed concern that the blowback of India’s actions could trigger another cross-border conflict as it nearly did in February
“We are not blackmailing the world, the first threats over the use of nuclear weapons came from India,” Masood Khan said, highlighting Modi’s threat in April to launch “the mother of nuclear weapons” if Pakistan ever attacked.
Asked what Pakistan’s red line was, the Azad Kashmir president said, “the red line has already been crossed, we are just showing restraint and responsibility, we don’t want to push the region to war.”
He discussed, however, the point at which “Pakistan takes actual steps to safeguard the rights of Kashmir and its people.” He said “the stakeholders are discussing” such a decision, but ultimately “the Kashmiris are going to say enough is enough.”
“We would take the right decision, the people of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir are ready,” he said, explaining why, with nuclear weapons at the ready, such a move would not be taken lightly.
He cited scientific estimates that a large-scale nuclear conflict involving the exchange of 15 to 20 weapons comparable to those used by the U.S. against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, would kill hundreds of millions of people and affect billions more through “global recession, mass migration” and other worldwide catastrophes. “You would be entering the globe into nuclear winter, and it would not just be India and Pakistan affected,” he stated.
“None of this will happen if the international community, if the United Nations Security Council acts,” Masood Khan said.
“We do not want to be a nuclear flashpoint between India and Pakistan, we are a peace-loving people. We want to be a symbol of peace and connectivity. I make an appeal to you—help us.”