India, Pakistan should engage in dialogue and 'de-escalate' situation, says UN human rights chief
The UN has re-emerged as an active battleground for India and Pakistan’s historical dispute over Kashmir.
The UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein urged India and Pakistan to refrain from "inflammatory remarks" and said that the UN "stands ready" to support efforts for an urgent deescalation of the situation.
"The High Commissioner is seriously concerned about the human rights situation in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the rising tensions between India and Pakistan," said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"We urge India and Pakistan to engage in a dialogue and to deescalate the situation. The inflammatory remarks on both sides is only fuelling the tensions and could result in a further deterioration of the human rights situation," Colville added.
The troubled region of the Kashmir Valley has burst into protests since the killing of a 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani by Indian security forces on 8 July. The clashes between the Army and the civilians have resulted in about 80 civilian deaths and thousands injuries among civilians as well as military troops.
India has alleged that the unrest has been fomented from across the borders.
The situation between the neighbours further escalated from 18 September onwards when four heavily-armed terrorists in a pre-dawn ambush attacked an Indian Army brigade headquarters in Uri near the Line of Control (LoC) killing 19 soldiers and severely injuring many.
This was one of the worst attacks on the Indian Army in decades.
The Indian government directly accused Pakistan calling it a "terrorist state", and alleging that the suicide attackers were members of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group with alleged links with the Pakistani government.
With mounting public pressure to avenge the deadly Uri attacks, the Modi government announced that it had launched "surgical strikes" against terrorist launchpads across the LoC. In the early hours of 29 September, India said that special operations forces had slipped into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and attacked terrorist camps that were due to infiltrate India.
Though there have been so-called surgical strikes in the past, the public announcement of this military incursion by the Indian government has broken new ground in the tense military narrative between the nuclear-armed neighbours. However, to avoid a risky escalation of the situation, the Indian Army avoided Pakistani military installations and spoke to the Pakistani Army about the attacks before the media was informed.
Pakistan has rejected India's claims of surgical strikes and has said that there was cross-border firing across the LoC resulting in deaths of soldiers, but no surgical strikes.
Top Pakistani diplomat Sartaj Aziz has said that the India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Nasir Janjua have spoken over the phone and agreed to reduce tensions along the LoC.
However, there was a terror attack again on adjoining army and Border Security Force (BSF) camps in Baramulla in north Kashmir, resulting in the death of an Indian security personnel on 3 October.
There are reports of ongoing Pakistani ceasefire violations in Gigriyal, Channi and Planwala areas of J&K’s Akhnoor sector.
Zeid’s office on Tuesday renewed the call for "unfettered and unconditional access to both Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Pakistan-administered Kashmir" to enable a human rights team to "independently and impartially" monitor the human rights situation.
"We stand ready to support efforts to de-escalate the situation," Colville said.
Pakistan has said that it would allow a human rights team into PoK only if there is a similar mission in tandem in "Indian-occupied Kashmir".
The UN has re-emerged as an active battleground for India and Pakistan’s historical dispute over Kashmir. With India raising the issue of human rights violations in Balochistan for the first time in the UN, accusatory exchanges between the countries have become more acrimonious. During the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), between 13-30 September, India accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and "training, financing and supporting terrorist groups as militant proxies against it neighbours", while Pakistan called Wani a "young Kashmiri leader", and accused that the Kashmiri people were being "bludgeoned and brutalised" by an "occupying power".
The fight carried on to the UN General Assembly (UNGA), where both Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj raked the issue of human rights violations in Kashmir and Balochistan.
The Uri attacks came in the first week of the UNHRC session and before Sharif’s address to the UNGA.
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