MUZAFFARABAD (Pakistan) • Prime Minister Imran Khan warned India yesterday that Pakistan was prepared to respond to any aggression in the disputed region of Kashmir, vowing that the time had come to teach New Delhi a lesson.
Mr Khan's remarks come as tensions skyrocketed between the nuclear-armed rivals following India's surprise move to revoke the autonomy of its portion of the disputed Himalayan territory last week.
"The Pakistani army has solid information that they (India) are planning to do something in Pakistani Kashmir, and they are ready and will give a solid response," Mr Khan said during a televised speech in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
"We have decided that if India commits any type of violation, we will fight till the end." The former cricketer's warnings of war represented a steep escalation in Pakistani rhetoric after Islamabad said last week it had ruled out a "military option" over the dispute.
"The time has arrived to teach you a lesson," Mr Khan added in the speech marking the country's Independence Day.
Following Delhi's move to abolish Kashmir's special status, Pakistan has launched a diplomatic offensive aimed at reversing the order and has formally asked the United Nations Security Council for an urgent meeting on the contested Kashmir region, according to a letter released by Pakistan's foreign ministry yesterday.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the request in a letter to UN Security Council president Joanna Wronecka, seeking to participate in the meeting under the agenda item "India-Pakistan question".
Pakistan has also expelled the Indian ambassador, halted bilateral trade and suspended cross-border transport services. However, analysts said the actions were unlikely to move Delhi.
The Indian part of the picturesque Himalayan region has been under lockdown for over a week, with tens of thousands of troop reinforcements deployed to the main city of Srinagar and other towns and villages. A curfew has also been enforced across the region and phone and Internet lines cut to quell potential unrest.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik said rules on the movement of people would ease after India's Independence Day celebrations today, but phone lines and the Internet would remain down.
Earlier this week, Mr Khan lambasted the international community for failing to challenge India and said turning a blind eye to the spread of Indian Hindu nationalism was the same as appeasing Hitler, a comparison he made again yesterday.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan following independence from Britain in 1947, and has been the spark for two wars between the archrivals.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, REUTERS