Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan lambasted recent moves by India in the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir as an “ethnic cleansing” ploy during a speech Wednesday marking Pakistan’s Independence Day.
Khan compared India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the Nazis.
Last week, India revoked New Delhi-administered Kashmir’s limited autonomy and split the region into two federally controlled areas.
As part of that decision, India declared a Chinese Kashmir territory to belong to India, angering Beijing.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan, India, and China all have competing claims to Kashmir territories. In recent days, Beijing and Islamabad have repeatedly warned that India’s decision over its Kashmir territory could trigger a war and lead to “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide.”
New Delhi-administered Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-majority region.
On Wednesday, PM Khan addressed a special session of the legislative assembly in the nominally self-governing jurisdiction of Islamabad-administered Kashmir, known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), the Dawn newspaper reported. Pakistan has divided the portion of Kashmir it controls into two parts: AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Khan warned India that any action in Pakistani Kashmir would prompt a stronger response, Dawn noted. The Pakistani PM’s trip to AJK marked his first visit to the region since becoming prime minister in 2018.
“On the day of Pakistan’s independence, I am with my Kashmiri brothers and sisters,” Khan proclaimed at the outset of his address, adding:
We have information, and we have had two National Security Committee (NSC) meetings. The Pakistan Army has full knowledge that India has made a plan to take [military] action in AJK. … To shift the world’s focus away from occupied Kashmir, they want to take action in AJK.
Addressing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Khan proclaimed:
This is my message to you: you take action and every brick will be countered with a stone. The Army is prepared; not just the Army but the entire nation will fight alongside our military. [India’s] aggressive war is against Islam, but when Muslims have fought for the sake of freedom, they have defeated the biggest armies. We will be ready, we will respond to whatever you do — we will go till the end.
In a series of tweets in the wake of New Delhi’s changes to its Kashmir territory, Khan likened the Hindu nationalist ideology of India’s ruling party to Nazism.
On Wednesday, Khan stressed:
There is a terrifying ideology in front of us today — the Hindu nationalist … party’s ideology, which Modi has been a member of from childhood. In this ideology, like with the Nazis, the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from India was also included. If you understand this ideology, a lot of things can be understood.
Human rights groups and the United States government have recently accused the Indian government of inciting hatred against Muslims.
PM Khan also said on Wednesday:
Narendra Modi has made a strategic blunder. He has played his final card. They have internationalized Kashmir. It used to be very hard to speak about Kashmir. Now the world’s eye is on Kashmir and on Pakistan. … I will be the ambassador who raises Kashmir’s voice.
India’s recent moves in Kashmir came amid an ongoing lockdown and communication blackout, including the blocking of phone lines, the internet, and news outlets. The lockdown is expected to last through Thursday, India’s Independence Day.
Via its state-run Global Times news outlet, Beijing also said it is prepared to defend China’s sovereignty from Indian aggression.
Last week, New Delhi also declared a portion of Chinese Kashmir to belong to India.
Pakistan has already fought two wars over Kashmir. Despite a 2003 ceasefire, clashes between the two rivals continue. China has also fought a war with India over Kashmir.
Although India and Pakistan claim the region in its entirety, a border has split Kashmir between the two countries. Pakistan has ceded control of some of its Kashmir lands to China. Meanwhile, India disputes China’s claim to Kashmir territory on its side of the region’s border.