ISLAMABAD/SRINAGAR (Reuters) – Tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir have the potential to blow up into a regional crisis and it is the right time for U.S. President Donald Trump to mediate, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday.
Khan’s comments come a day after Pakistan accused India of using illegal cluster bombs, killing two civilians and wounding 11, in the disputed Kashmir region. India denied it had used such weapons.
“President Trump offered to mediate on Kashmir. This is the time to do so as situation deteriorates there and along the LOC (line of control) with new aggressive actions being taken by Indian occupation forces,” Khan said on Twitter, referring to the heavily militarised de facto border that divides the two parts of Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
“This has the potential to blow up into a regional crisis,” Khan said.
India’s foreign affairs ministry and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Khan’s remarks.
In July, Trump told reporters that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him during a meeting in Japan if he would like to be a mediator on Kashmir. India denied Modi ever asked for any mediation.
Muslim-majority Kashmir, claimed by both India and Pakistan, has long been a bone of contention between the two. Tensions flared after a vehicle laden with explosives rammed into an Indian police convoy on Feb. 14, killing 40 paramilitary police, and leading to aerial clashes between the two nations.
India accuses Pakistan of funding armed militants, as well as separatist groups in India’s portion of the region. Islamabad denies the Indian accusation, saying it provides only diplomatic and moral support to a separatist movement.
Tensions have escalated particularly since Friday, when local Indian officials in Kashmir issued an alert over possible militant attacks by Pakistan-based groups. Pakistan has rejected those assertions, but thousands of Indian tourists, pilgrims and workers left the region in panic.
Pakistan on Saturday also rejected India’s claims that it had killed at least five Pakistan-based militants who tried to attack its forces near the border.
On Sunday, Kashmir remained on high alert with Indian para-military forces deployed across major towns. One senior local official said a curfew was likely next week.
However, the city police chief in Srinagar, the state’s main city, told Reuters he had no knowledge of a curfew.
Hospitals were on alert, with staff told not to leave the city without permission, officials said.
The local government on Friday said they had intelligence inputs of militant attacks and called off a major Hindu pilgrimage, asking pilgrims and tourists to return home.
Kashmir touts itself as a “Paradise on Earth”, with its Dal Lake, famous houseboats and mountains among major attractions.
Britain and Germany have in advisories discouraged their citizens from visiting, but around 160 foreign tourists arrived on Saturday, one official said. Some were not worried.
“Why should we be scared? It is a nice place and people are very helpful,” said Molly, a Swiss tourist.
Nevertheless, tourism is bound to suffer as tensions rise.
“All of a sudden tourists left … I have no work for the last two days. We are up for bad times,” said Abdul Rashid Shah, 53, a boatman at the Dal Lake.