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March 31, 2020
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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (left) shakes hands with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi after a joint press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on February 16, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Concerned about Kashmir: U.N. chief

The government has rejected the latest offer by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, saying that it would only discuss the matter bilaterally. Speaking in Islamabad at the beginning of a four-day visit to Pakistan, Mr. Guterres had said he had offered his offices and was “ready to help if both countries agree for mediation.”In a response late on Sunday evening, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) official spokesperson said, “The issue of [Jammu and Kashmir] that needs to be addressed is that of vacation of the territories illegally and forcibly occupied by Pakistan. Further issues, if any, would be discussed bilaterally. There is no role or scope for third party mediation.”The spokesperson added that India hopes the U.N. Secretary-General would “emphasise on the imperative for Pakistan to take credible, sustained and irreversible action to put an end to cross-border terrorism against India.”Mr. Guterres was speaking to journalists in Islamabad ahead of a conference on Afghan refugees hosted by the U.N.HCR and the Pakistan government, which will be inaugurated by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday. Kartarpur visitMr. Guterres will also travel to the Kartarpur gurudwara and see the pilgrim corridor with India, which he described as a “unique experiment in cross-border ties”.Asked about the situation in J&K, he said he was “deeply concerned” and called on India and Pakistan to “de-escalate, both militarily and verbally”.The U.N. Secretary-General has offered several times to mediate on the issue, and had repeated the offer last September after India-Pakistan tensions flared over the government’s decision to amend Article 370 and impose restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir. While the government’s rejection of the offer is also routine, it may also be meant as a reminder to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made several offers of mediation in the past, and will arrive in India in a week’s time.

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