Britain on Thursday asked India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue against a backdrop of heightened tensions, but foreign secretary Boris Johnson made it clear that the UK could not “prescribe a solution or act as a mediator”.
Johnson, on a two-day visit to Pakistan, called for an end to violence in Kashmir, warning that tensions between India and Pakistan are holding the region back from becoming an “incredible boomzone”.
He spoke a day after 14 people were killed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir during a flare-up of hostilities following the killing of three Indian soldiers.
Johnson expressed concern at recent incidents “on both sides” of the Line of Control (LoC).
“The longstanding position of the UK is that is it for India and Pakistan to find a lasting solution to the situation in Kashmir, taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people,” Johnson told a joint news conference with Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz.
“We call for an end to the violence and for both sides to exercise restraint,” Johnson said, framing the issue as a matter of economy and security.
“Look at the incredible human potential of Pakistan and its neighbours...and then imagine what the future could be like if this was sorted out. What an incredible boomzone it could be.”
The “mutual sequestration” of the Indian and Pakistani economies is holding the region back from fulfilling this potential, he said.
But, he added, it was not for Britain to “prescribe a solution or act as a mediator” over the “disputed” region.
Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after a terror attack on an Indian Army camp at Uri on September 18 and subsequent Indian surgical strikes on terrorist launch pads in PoK 10 days later. Frequent exchanges of fire along the LoC have resulted in the death of soldiers and civilians on both sides.
Wednesday’s flare-up followed the killing of three Indian soldiers, including one whose body was mutilated. Pakistan has described reports that its troops were responsible for the mutilation and deaths as “false” and “baseless”.
Aziz said Pakistan had briefed the British delegation about the increase in tensions on the LoC. He stressed the need for dialogue with India, saying “otherwise these issues would become more serious”.
Aziz also said Pakistan and Britain have been cooperating under the framework of an enhanced strategic dialogue since 2011. “The two sides had already agreed to three new roadmaps on trade and investment, culture and education and security,” he said.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has extended an invitation to his British counterpart Theresa May to visit Pakistan next year, he added.