United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has expressed readiness to engage with India and Pakistan in resolving the Kashmir issue if requested by both and asked them to resume talks to reach an agreement that would serve their security interests as well as that of the region.
“As I have stated in the past, if both countries request it, I am ready to engage further to assist in resolving this issue,” the secretary general said.
Reiterating that peace in Jammu and Kashmir can be achieved only through dialogue, Ban called on the two countries to resume discussions and said that an agreement on Kashmir would serve the security interests of both countries as well as that of the region.
“I once again encourage both governments to resume discussions and identify confidence-building measures that will allow them to come to an agreement on Kashmir, which will serve the security interests of both countries as well as of the region,” Ban said.
He said that Kashmiris need to be engaged in the process and their rights must also be respected at all times.
Ban said he as well as other senior officials have been in close contact with authorities from both Pakistan and India in recent weeks, given the tensions between the two countries when violence escalated along the Line of Control in October.
Several Indian civilians had been killed and many others injured as Pakistan targeted dozens of army outposts and villages. Pakistan had said that it too had suffered civilian casualties.
“I am saddened by the loss of lives throughout this conflict, including this fall when civilians were killed and thousands more were displaced. I am convinced that peace and stability in Kashmir can be achieved only through dialogue,” Ban said.
India and Pakistan were engaged in a war of words in the UN General Assembly with India strongly rejecting Pakistan’s comments about Kashmir at the world body.
Adviser to the Pakistan prime minister on national security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz had written a letter to Ban on the border tensions with India and sought the UN's intervention, stepping up its attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue.
India has maintained that Kashmir is its internal matter and has made it clear that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir would be discussed with Pakistan within the framework of bilateral agreements of Simla pact and Lahore Declaration. India had called off the talks between foreign secretaries slated in August after Pakistan's envoy in Delhi held talks with Kashmiri separatists just before the parleys.
India had told Pakistan bluntly to choose between an Indo-Pak dialogue or hobnobbing with the separatists.
Image: Indian security personnel watch as smoke rises from a home where terrorists were hiding during an encounter in Srinagar. Photograph: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com