Pakistani people watch the television as Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks to the nation about last week’s suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir, in Islamabad, Feb 19, 2019. (AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)
ISLAMABAD/SRINAGAR – Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday his country had nothing to do with a suicide bombing that killed 40 Indian troopers in Kashmir, adding that tensions can only ease with dialogue but Pakistan would retaliate if attacked by India.
Khan’s call came as Pakistan's foreign minister appealed to the UN Secretary General to help ease tension with India that has escalated sharply following Thursday’s bomb attack claimed by Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
If India alleges that Pakistani soil has been used for terrorism, it should share evidence. I want to give you (India) a guarantee that I will take action.
Imran Khan, Prime Minister, Pakistan
Also on Tuesday, India's top military commander in the disputed Kashmir region said Pakistan's main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, was involved in last week's attack.
"We were tracking down top leadership since the attack. It was being controlled from across by ISI and Pakistan and JeM commanders," Lieutenant-General KJS Dhillon told reporters.
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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, facing an election by May, earlier warned Pakistan to expect a "strong response" to the bombing, raising fears of conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
In a televised address to the nation Tuesday, Khan said India had "leveled allegations against Pakistan without any evidence" and his government was ready to cooperate with New Delhi in investigating the blast in Kashmir.
"It is not in the interest of Pakistan to allow its soil for any terrorist activity as Pakistan is heading towards stability. If India alleges that Pakistani soil has been used for terrorism, it should share evidence. I want to give you (India) a guarantee that I will take action," he said.
Amid escalating tension, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi wrote to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres seeking his intervention. "It is with a sense of urgency that I draw your attention to the deteriorating security situation in our region resulting from the threat of use of force against Pakistan by India."
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"It is imperative to take steps for de-escalation. The United Nations must step in to defuse tensions," he wrote, blaming India for deliberately ratcheting up its hostile rhetoric for domestic political reasons.
In this Feb 18, 2019 photo, Indian security forces personnel are on manoeuvers during a gunfight with militants that killed four soldiers in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, some 10 km away from the spot of recent suicide bombing on Thursday. (STR / AFP)
Jaish-e Mohammad, a militant group said to be based in Pakistan which wants the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir to be part of Pakistan, claimed responsibility but the Pakistani government has denied any involvement.
“Attributing it to Pakistan even before investigations is absurd," Qureshi said. "India must be asked to conduct an open and credible investigation on Pulwama incident.”
Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir, a former princely state on the border between India and Pakistan, has been in dispute since the partition of India in 1947. Control is split between the two countries but each claims the region in full. The neighbors have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over Kashmir. They have fought countless skirmishes along their de facto border, which the United Nations monitors, in the Himalayan region.
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