UN chief Antonio Guterres said on Sunday it was important for India and Pakistan to de-escalate “militarily and verbally” and exercise “maximum restraint” as he began his four-day visit to the country, amidst tense relationship between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Addressing a press conference after his meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the UN Secretary-General said he was “deeply concerned” over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and tensions along the Line of Control.
The UN chief on Sunday arrived on a four-day visit to Pakistan during which he will attend an international conference on Afghan refugees and visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.
“Diplomacy and dialogue remain the only tools that guarantee peace and stability with solutions in accordance with the Charter of United Nations and resolutions of the Security Council,” Guterres told reporters.
He emphasised the importance to “de-escalate, both militarily and verbally” while talking about relations between Pakistan and India.
Guterres said he had “repeatedly stressed the importance of exercising maximum restraint”.
“I offered my good offices from the beginning. I am ready to help if both countries agree for mediation,” he said.
Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after New Delhi abrogated ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 last year. India’s decision evoked strong reactions from Pakistan, which downgraded its diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian envoy.
India has defended its move, saying the special status provisions only gave rise to terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The country took the decision of abrogation of Article 370, which had only given separatism and terrorism to that state,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in October last year.
The UN chief said that the issue of Kashmir should be resolved according to UN resolution.
“UNMOGIP (UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan) should be given free access. It is already there on the Pakistan side, and it should also be given on the other side,” he said.
“We have taken a position that UN resolutions (on Kashmir) should be implemented, there should be ceasefire (on LoC) and human rights should be respected,” he said.
India maintains that UNMOGIP has outlived its utility and is irrelevant after the Simla Agreement and the consequent establishment of the LoC.
India has rejected any third-party intervention to the Kashmir issue and has maintained that all outstanding matters in Indo-Pak ties should be resolved bilaterally.
In August last year, Prime Minister Modi categorically rejected any scope for third party mediation on Kashmir, saying it was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, and “we don’t want to bother any third country”.
Calling the Kartarpur initiative a “symbol of interfaith harmony, a unique experiment in cross-border ties”, the UN chief said that the opening of the corridor showed “Pakistan’s commitment to peace”.
Guterres said one of the main purposes of his visit was to “spotlight the real Pakistan, with all its possibilities and potential.”
Qureshi in his remarks said that he briefed Guterres on the “challenging situation” after India revoked the special status of Kashmir.
He also demanded that the UN human rights commissioner should come up with a report on the post-August 5 situation in Kashmir.
Earlier on Sunday, the UN Secretary-General was received by Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Munir Akram and senior officials of the Foreign Office and the United Nations in Pakistan on his arrival at the Nur Khan Airbase, Radio Pakistan reported.
According to Pakistan Foreign Office, Guterres will also hold talks with President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan.
During these meetings, Pakistan will share its perspective on the Kashmir issue, it said.
His other engagements include interactions with parliamentarians and the youth.
He will deliver special talks on themes of sustainable development, climate change and peacekeeping.
Guterres will also visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak Dev, in Kartarpur.
Guru Nanak Dev spent the last 18 years of his life at Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, which has now become the world’s largest Sikh Gurdwara.
The UN chief will speak at the international conference on ’40 Years of Hosting Afghan Refugees in Pakistan’, which is being organised by Pakistan and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
The two-day conference starting from Monday will be inaugurated by prime minister Khan.
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