Pakistan has accused rival India of breaching international humanitarian laws by using “cluster munitions” in the latest cross-border skirmishes in Kashmir, saying the weapons killed at least two civilians and injured 11 others on the Pakistani side of the divided region.
The allegations come a day after India again rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate a resolution of the Kashmir dispute between the two nuclear-armed countries.
A statement by Pakistan’s military said Saturday the civilian casualties occurred on July 31 in the scenic Neelum Valley near the Line of Control (LoC), the defacto border separating Pakistani and Indian portions of the disputed Himalayan territory.
It alleged the Indian army used cluster ammunitions delivered by artillery on July 31 in the valley, deliberately targeting the civilian population.
Cluster munitions are weapons consisting of a container that opens in the air and scatters a large number of explosive submunitions over a wide area. The related global convention adopted in 2008 prohibits the use of cluster munitions.
There was no immediate reaction from India to the allegation. Indian authorities for their part also accuse Pakistani forces of indulging in unprovoked cross-border shelling, causing civilian and military casualties on their side
The Pakistani military statement urged the international community “to take notice of this Indian blatant violation of international laws on use of cluster ammunition targeting innocent citizens.”
It also released pictures of victims and the purported weapons it said were used by Indian forces. Independent verification was difficult to ascertain.
Trump Reiterates Kashmir Mediation Offer
Speaking together with visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House two weeks ago, Trump said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently asked him whether he would like to be a mediator or arbitrator on Kashmir, assertions New Delhi swiftly denied.
Trump, however, reiterated his mediation offer on Thursday, saying he is willing to mediate but a decision would be up to Modi and Khan.
“If I can — if they wanted me to, I would certainly intervene,” Trump told reporters.
Indian Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar said he told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of an Asian security forum in Bangkok that any discussion of the disputed Kashmir region would be strictly between India and Pakistan.
New Delhi has long opposed outside attempts to mediate its dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. Islamabad insists international help is required because of persistent Indian refusals to engage in bilateral talks.
Security Alert in Indian Kashmir
Saturday’s Pakistani allegations come as thousands of people, mostly, visitors, reportedly have started leaving the India-ruled portion of Kashmir since the local government warned of possible militant attacks.
Indian authorities announced Friday they had found evidence of attacks by militants allegedly backed by Pakistan on a major Hindu pilgrimage in Kashmir. The revelation prompted the regional government to order the pilgrims and tourists to return home.
Regional military tensions have remained high since February 14, when a vehicle-born bomb rammed into an Indian paramilitary convoy in Kashmir, killing 40 security personnel and triggering an aerial dogfight between Indian and Pakistani air force planes. New Delhi blamed Pakistan-based militants for plotting the attack. The subsequent escalation in tensions brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a fourth war before international diplomatic intervention helped defuse the situation.
New Delhi has suspended official talks with Islamabad since Modi came to power in 2014, demanding Pakistan first stop militants plotting cross-border attacks in India.
Separatist violence and the ensuing Indian crackdown are estimated to have killed more than 70,000 people in Indian Kashmir.
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