As India and Pakistan trade gunfire along the Kashmir border, Pakistan's envoy to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, talks to DW about the Kashmir conflict and the allegations that Islamabad is sponsoring terrorism in the region.
Two Pakistani soldiers were killed Thursday in an exchange of fire with Indian troops at the de facto border in the disputed region of Kashmir, the Pakistani army said.
New Delhi and Islamabad have been engaged in a war of words since the killing of separatist Kashmiri leader Burhan Wani on July 8. Protests against Indian rule in Kashmir and clashes between separatists and soldiers have claimed over 70 lives. Life in the capital, Srinagar, and parts of the valley has been paralyzed by these protests and a curfew imposed by the state government.
On September 18, suspected militants killed at least 17 Indian soldiers and wounded 30 in India-administered Kashmir. Heavily-armed militants launched an early morning raid on the Indian army's 12th brigade infantry base housing hundreds of soldiers in Uri, west of Srinagar, the Indian military said. The Indian army said the rebels had infiltrated the Indian part of Kashmir from Pakistan.
In an apparent response to the Uri attack, India pulled out of a key South Asian summit on Wednesday, protesting Islamabad's alleged patronage of terrorism.
DW spoke to Pakistan's ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi about the recent developments.
DW: How do you look at India's decision to pull out of the upcoming SAARC summit in Islamabad?
Maleeha Lodhi: The Indian decision is aimed at diverting international attention from its human rights violations in Kashmir. By boycotting the SAARC conference, New Delhi has also proven that it has no regard for an important regional organization and that it doesn't care about the regional cooperation as well.
At the UN General Assembly session, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke about the alleged Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in the region. She also reiterated that Kashmir is an integral part of India. How were these statements received by the international community?
Her statements are false and in contradiction with a number of historical facts. The UN acknowledges Kashmir as an international dispute. The Indian foreign minister's claim that Indian troops are not committing human rights violations in Kashmir is also untrue. International human rights organizations have documented the abuses. We call on the international community to ensure that the Indian government gives access to the UN's Human Rights Facts Finding Mission in Kashmir for an independent inquiry.
But it seems that India has a bigger clout in the international community. New Delhi wants the UN to declare Pakistan a "terrorist state." A number of US senators have also made such demands in the past. Pakistan denies these accusations, but it is a fact that a number of high-profile terrorists have been discovered in Pakistan. That strengthens India's case, doesn't it?
No other country has sacrificed more in the war on terror than Pakistan. Indian claims that Pakistan is sponsoring terrorism is contrary to the facts. Pakistan has eliminated al Qaeda from its territory. A massive counter-terrorism operation involving 200,000 troops is underway in Pakistan. The reality is that it is India which is involved in state terrorism, killing civilian protestors.
What about the Balochistan conflict? Rights groups have documented grave rights violations in the western Pakistani province. Indian foreign minister also raised the issue at the UN. How do you respond to that?
There is no similarity between Balochistan and Kashmir. Balochistan is Pakistan's domestic issue whereas Kashmir is an internationally-recognized dispute. India has only embarrassed itself by bringing up the Balochitsan issue at the UN.
Baloch activists are angered by a lack of media coverage of the ongoing military operation and rights abuses in their province
What, in your opinion, is the solution to the Kashmir crisis?
Pakistan wants a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute. We want to engage in talks with New Delhi and discuss all bilateral issues. We didn't suspend the peace talks; India did. India is also responsible for the recent escalation, which is making diplomatic efforts difficult.
India should talk to Pakistan without any preconditions. The international community can mediate by defusing the tension. Indo-Pakistani negotiations are in the interest of the people living in Pakistan and India. We expect India to act responsibly.
It's been reported that India could annul the Indus Water Treaty and use water supply as a tool to hurt Pakistan. Do you think New Delhi can go to that extent?
It is an international treaty, which India cannot suspend unilaterally. Pakistan does not take the threat seriously because it will have serious consequences for India. The World Bank is a party to this treaty and I don't think India can use this treaty to hurt us.
Maleeha Lodhi is Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
The interview was conducted by Beenish Javed. Additional reporting by Shamil Shams.