UN holds Kashmir talks amid ongoing concerns

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United Nations Security Council members held rare talks on the disputed region of Kashmir on Wednesday amid ongoing concerns over the flashpoint between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan.

After the meeting, senior Russian diplomat Dmitry Polyanskiy said the 15-nation body had discussed the contentious Indian-administered region, where New Delhi has been accused of abuses against its mostly-Muslim population.

“The UNSC discussed Kashmir in closed consultations,” Polyanskiy said in a tweet to his nearly 6,000 followers shortly after the discussions ended on Wednesday.

“Russia firmly stands for the normalization of relations between India and Pakistan. We hope that differences between them will be settled through bilateral efforts based on the 1972 Simla Agreement and the 1999 Lahore Declaration.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, China’s U.N. ambassador Zhang Jun warned of “tensions” in the region and said council members heard from a U.N. official about the “situation on the ground” and then “exchanged views” on the divisive issue.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi attended U.N. meetings in New York on Wednesday afternoon.

He said after meeting U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the measures taken by India after Aug. 5 have caused heightened tensions and are threatening international peace and security in South Asia. The situation is “very delicate and could spin out of control,” he warned.

According to reports, France, an ally of India, had opposed China’s request to hold the closed-door talks on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir at the world body’s headquarters in New York.

Last month, the United States, Britain, France, and Russia blocked a previous attempt by China to discuss the issue at another closed-door meeting. The council last discussed Kashmir in August 2019.

China has long voiced concern over the situation in Kashmir and said it supports Pakistan in its fight for the Kashmiris.

India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in part and claim the Himalayan region in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan that have fought two wars over the territory.

U.N. peacekeepers have been deployed since 1949 to observe a cease-fire between India and Pakistan.

The latest flareup was sparked by the decision of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government to end Muslim-majority Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status on Aug. 5.

The move was accompanied by a harsh crackdown, with New Delhi sending tens of thousands of additional troops to the already heavily militarized region, imposing a sweeping curfew, arresting thousands and cutting virtually all communications.

Authorities have since eased several restrictions, lifting roadblocks and restoring landlines and cellphone services, but Internet service is yet to be restored in the Kashmir valley.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other major international campaign outfits have repeatedly called on India to lift restrictions, release political detainees and switch all telecommunications back on.

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