March 2020 News

Pakistan Uses Covid-19 Outbreak To Again Rake Up Kashmir

29 March 2020
The Hindustan Times

New Delhi: Pakistan has sought to use the Covid-19 outbreak to rake up Kashmir at different forums, including the UN Security Council, where Islamabad's recent efforts to highlight the issue have gained no traction. On Sunday, Pakistan's Foreign Office made public the contents of a letter written by foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to the UN secretary general and the president of the Security Council on March 9 regarding what he described as the 'dire' humanitarian situation in Jammu and Kashmir. In a separate statement, the Foreign Office also called for the release of Kashmiri prisoners and lifting of restrictions in Kashmir in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. There was no immediate response from Indian officials to Qureshi's letter or the statement. India has maintained that the decision last August to scrap Jammu and Kashmir's special status is an internal matter. It has also blamed Pakistan for interfering in and supporting terrorism in Kashmir. Pakistan was also criticised by India recently for raising the Kashmir issue during the March 15 video conference of leaders of Saarc states on the pandemic, with officials saying Islamabad had resorted to politicising a humanitarian issue. Pakistan's Foreign Office said Qureshi's letter to the UN was in line with the country's efforts to 'continuously highlight the dire human rights and humanitarian situation' in Kashmir. Qureshi contended that India's actions in Kashmir posed a threat to peace and security in South Asia. Qureshi's letter 'rejected India's false narrative of 'normalcy' in Kashmir and highlighted 'intensified ceasefire violations' by Indian forces along the Line of Control (LoC) since December. It also raised the 'possibility of India staging a 'false flag' operation to divert international attention' from the situation in Kashmir. The letter also highlighted 'irresponsible statements' by the Indian leadership and the alleged 'change the demographic structure' in the region. It added that durable peace and stability in South Asia would 'remain contingent upon a just and lasting solution' of the Kashmir issue. The Foreign Office, in a separate statement, expressed concern at restrictions and detentions in Kashmir, including of Hurriyat leaders, and called on the world community to demand the 'lifting of communication restrictions and allowing unfettered access to medical and other essential supplies'. France and other permanent members of the UN Security Council have thwarted efforts by China, acting on behalf of its close ally Pakistan, to raise the Kashmir situation at the world body, most recently in December.