China’s U.N. ambassador warned Wednesday against further escalation between India and Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir region and expressed hope that a Security Council meeting called by Beijing will encourage both countries to seek a solution through dialogue.
Zhang Jun told several reporters after the closed meeting that China remains “concerned about the situation on the ground” in Kashmir.
“I’m sure the meeting will be a help in both parties to understand the risk of further escalation and encourage them to approach to each other and to have dialogue and to seek means to seek solutions through dialogue,” Zhang said.
India’s Hindu nationalist-led government ended Muslim-majority Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status in August. 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. India’s action sparked protests, and last Friday the country’s top court ordered the government to review all restrictions within a week, saying the measures amounted to abuse of power.
China has supported Pakistan, India’s archrival, in opposing New Delhi’s downgrading of Kashmir’s semi-autonomy and continuing restrictions in the disputed region. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was scheduled to meet U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at U.N. headquarters later Wednesday.
Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because Wednesday’s meeting was closed, said China wanted a review of the U.N. observer mission in Kashmir. But the overwhelming number of countries on the 15-member council urged de-escalation and said the dispute is bilateral and should be resolved by India and Pakistan.
At the end of British colonial rule in 1947, the Indian subcontinent was divided into predominantly Hindu India and mainly Muslim Pakistan. They have fought two of their three wars over control of Kashmir, which had been a Muslim-majority kingdom ruled by a Hindu maharaja.
The first war ended in 1948 with a U.N.-brokered ceasefire that left Kashmir divided, with the promise of a U.N.-sponsored referendum on its “final disposition” that has never been held.
The U.N. sent military observers to supervise the ceasefire in January 1949 and following renewed hostilities in 1971 the U.N. mission has remained in the area to observe developments and report to the secretary-general — not to the Security Council, as other peacekeeping missions do.
The Security Council held its first closed consultations on Kashmir since 1971 following India’s surprise action in August to change the Himalayan region’s status.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training insurgents fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan. Pakistan denies the charge and says it offers only diplomatic and moral support to the rebels.
By Edith M. Lederer for The Associated Press.