ISLAMABAD, Pakistan's foreign minister on Sunday urged the United Nations to move quickly to mediate the Kashmir dispute or risk a fourth war between Pakistan and India, the world's newest nuclear powers.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Gohar Ayub, who was to meet later in the day with the U.N. secretary general's special envoy, said relentless cross-border attacks in the disputed Kashmir region could quickly spin out of control.
Pakistan claims Indian soldiers killed 15 civilians in the past week in attacks on Pakistani villages strung out along the northern territory's contested border.
"The danger is there of cross-border raids or hot pursuit . . . this is a strong possibility," said Ayub. "That would be responded to by us sharply and aggressively."
He said Pakistan already has made "elaborate plans that if Indian aircraft should come into Pakistan's airspace we would retaliate quickly and decisively."
India and Pakistan have fought two previous wars over Kashmir and a third war over Bangladesh, or what was then East Pakistan.
Pakistan and India both lay claim to a united Kashmir, divided between the two countries after the departure of the British colonizers in 1947. India controls roughly two-thirds of the former princely state, which is predominately Hindu India's only Muslim-dominated state.
Indian soldiers have been trying since 1989 to put down a violent secessionist uprising, which India says is being backed by neighboring Pakistan, which denies the charges. Secessionists are demanding either outright independence or union with Islamic Pakistan.
Ayub said it's likely that a fourth war between the two unfriendly neighbors would result in the use of nuclear weapons -- a concern that has prompted the peace mission by Advaro De Soto, U.N. assistant secretary general for political affairs.
De Soto is in the region to try to defuse tensions heightened by last month's testing of nuclear weapons by both Pakistan and India. He canceled a trip to India after New Delhi said he was not welcome.
India has flatly rejected international mediation.
"What they should do is come down very hard on India," Ayub said, forcing New Delhi to agree to a third-party mediator.
Ayub said the success record of bilateral talks between India and Pakistan has been grim.
Between June 1997 and January 1998, Pakistan and India held eight separate negotiation sessions involving prime ministers, foreign secretaries and foreign ministers, said Ayub.
"The end result was nil . . . we have no success with bilateral talks," he said. "They are just a futile exercise . . . that we have tried over and over again."
Still, Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has agreed to meet Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee July 29 in Sri Lanka at a summit of South Asian regional countries.
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