Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan bluntly warned that war was possible over India’s crackdown in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, while United States President Donald Trump buddied up to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in their second meeting in three days.
Trump urged the sides to resolve their differences even as he gushed over Modi, saying he was as popular as American rock legend Elvis Presley.
Khan had a much different description for Modi when talking to reporters Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly in New York: “racist.”
The nuclear-armed rivals, which have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, have been locked in a worsening standoff since Aug. 5, when Modi stripped the portion of Kashmir that India controls of its limited autonomy.
Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government imposed a sweeping military curfew and cut off residents in the Muslim-majority region from virtually all communications.
“For 50 days, the people of Kashmir have been locked down by 900,000 soldiers,” Khan said, describing mass arrests, non-functioning hospitals and “a total news blackout.”
“Eight million people in an open jail is unprecedented in this day and age. … The biggest worry is what happens once the curfew is lifted? We fear with 900,000 soldiers there, there will be a massacre,” Khan said. “There’s a potential that two nuclear-armed countries will come face to face at some stage.”
India and Pakistan’s conflict over Kashmir dates to the late 1940s, when they won independence from Britain. The region is one of the most heavily militarized in the world, patrolled by soldiers and paramilitary police. Most Kashmiris resent the Indian troop presence.
Modi has defended the Kashmir changes as freeing the territory from separatism, and his supporters welcomed the move.
While Khan warned of war, Trump was having a much lighter moment with Modi.