Trump offers to mediate Kashmir for third time
US urges India to free detainees, restore rights as nine killed in border clashes
WASHINGTON, Aug 21: US President Donald Trump once again offered Tuesday to mediate the "explosive" situation in Kashmir amid mounting international concern over a flare-up in violence between India and Pakistan in the divided region.
Speaking a day after phone calls with the premiers of both countries, Trump said he was happy to try and help calm the situation in Kashmir where tensions have spiked since India revoked autonomous rule in the part of the region it controls on August 5.
"Kashmir is a very complicated place. You have Hindus and you have the Muslims and I wouldn't say they get along so great," Trump told reporters at the White House. "I will do the best I can to mediate," he added.
This is the third time that the US President has talked about mediation in Kashmir in last few weeks, even though a White House statement after Pakistan PM Imran Khan's conversation with Trump on Friday said that both the neighbours can resolve the issues bilaterally.
The United States called on India Tuesday to quickly release detainees and restore basic liberties in Indian-controlled Kashmir to ease tensions in the flashpoint region. "We continue to be very concerned by reports of detentions, and continued restrictions on the residents of the region," a senior State Department official told reporters.
"We urge respect for individual rights, compliance with legal procedures and an inclusive dialogue," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity after returning from a visit to the region.
Tensions have been high since India revoked autonomous rule in the part of Kashmir it controls on August 5. At least 4,000 people have been detained in Indian-controlled Kashmir since then
Pakistan said Tuesday that three Pakistani civilians died in Indian gunfire from across the de facto border in Kashmir. Pakistan also said its forces later killed six Indian soldiers. But the Indian army rejected this claim as "totally fake," the Press Trust of India said.
PTI quoted officials as saying one Indian soldier died and four were wounded as Pakistani troops opened fire on forward posts and villages along the Line of Control in the Poonch district on Tuesday.
Indian army troops responded causing heavy damage to Pakistani army posts and casualties to Pakistani soldiers, PTI quoted a defence spokesman based in Jammu as saying.
Pakistan said on Tuesday it would take its dispute with India over Kashmir to the International Court of Justice, after New Delhi revoked the special status of its part of the region earlier this month.
Islamabad reacted with fury to that decision, cutting trade and transport links and expelling India's ambassador. The case would center on alleged human rights violations by India in Muslim-majority Kashmir, which both countries claim in full but rule in part, Qureshi said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Modi in a phone call on Tuesday that the Kashmir dispute must be resolved between India and Pakistan alone, Downing Street said.
An Indian statement said Modi had raised with Johnson the "violence and vandalism perpetrated by a large mob against the High Commission of India in London" on August 15.
Several thousand people had protested in London that day over India's Kashmir move. Police separated them from a smaller pro-Indian counter-demonstration and made at least one arrest.
Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers and the situation in Kashmir, divided between them since 1947, is further complicated by the fact that China also claims part of the Himalayan region.
At least 4,000 people have been detained in Indian-controlled Kashmir, according to security and government sources, since early August when authorities imposed a communications blackout and restricted freedom of movement in the region.
Highlighting the growing international concern, a senior US official, who has just returned from a visit to the region, called on India Tuesday to quickly release detainees and restore basic liberties.
Clashes are common between Indian security forces and militants opposed to Indian rule, with tens of thousands of people killed in the past 30 years, most of them civilians, adding to public resentment towards New Delhi.
But the latest gun battle north Kashmir's Baramulla district, reported by Kashmir police on Wednesday, since the August 5 move.
"One terrorist killed... Arms and ammunition recovered. Our colleague SPO (special police officer) Billal attained martyrdom. SI (subinspector) Amardeep Parihar injured in the incident is being treated at Army Hospital," Kashmir Zone Police said on Twitter.
A later tweet said that the dead militant was identified as a local man "affiliated" with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). LeT is a UN-listed militant organisation based in Pakistan and is accused by India and Washington of masterminding the four-day Mumbai attacks in 2008. -AFP