Saturday, 14 December 2019

Trump once again offers to mediate ‘explosive’ Kashmir standoff

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump offered 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.

His comments came as Pakistan said three of its civilians died in Indian gunfire from across the de facto border in Kashmir known as the Line of Control.

And the Press Trust of India news agency quoted officials as saying one Indian soldier died and four were wounded when Pakistani troops opened fire on forward posts and villages along the LoC in the Poonch district on Tuesday.

Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers and the situation in Kashmir is further complicated by the fact that China also claims part of the Himalayan region.

Trump — who has previously spoken of his willingness to mediate — said he would raise the situation over the weekend with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both men are expected in France for a summit of the Group of Seven industralized nations.

“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.

At least 4,000 people have been detained in Indian-controlled Kashmir since early August when authorities imposed a communications blackout and restricted freedom of movement in the region.

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.

“We continue to be very concerned by reports of detentions, and continued restrictions on the residents of the region,” the 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.

Both India and Pakistan have controlled portions of the former princely state of Kashmir since independence in 1947. The dispute over the Muslim-majority region has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between them.

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