Kashmir crisis could affect Afghan peace talks, Amb. Asad Khan

NEW YORK, Aug 13 (APP):Warning that the Kashmir crisis could get worse, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Asad Majeed Khan has raised the possibility that Islamabad might redeploy troops from the Afghanistan border to the Kashmir frontier, a shift that could complicate American peace talks with the Taliban, now said to be in the final stages.

In an interview with The New York Times editorial board on Monday, he emphasized that the Kashmir and Afghanistan issues were separate and that he was not attempting to link them. On the contrary, he said, Pakistan hoped the American talks with the Taliban would succeed and that his country was actively supporting them.

“We are doing all that we can and will continue,” Ambassador Khan said. “It’s not an either-or situation.”

Nonetheless, the Pakistani envoy said that India’s crackdown on occupied Kashmir as it annexed the disputed state “could not have come at a worse time for us.” In this regard, the Times explained that the Pakistanis have sought to strengthen military control along the western border with Afghanistan, an area long infiltrated by Taliban militants, as part of the effort to help end the Afghanistan conflict by denying the group a safe haven.

“We have our hands full” on the western border, Ambassador Khan said, adding, “If the situation escalates on the eastern border, we will have to undertake redeployments.”

Right now in Islamabad, he said, “we are not thinking about anything but what is happening on our eastern border.”.

About the reaction to New Delhi’s action in India, Ambassador Khan said, “Pakistan as a punching bag sells in India.”

There has been little communication between the two countries over the past week, the ambassador said, and the crisis “unfortunately, I suspect, is going to get worse.”

But he declined to specify what such a worsening would look like.

“We are two big countries, with very large militaries, with nuclear capability and a history of conflict, so I would not like to burden your imagination on that one,” he said. “But obviously if things get worse, things get worse.”

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