Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday that India “leveled allegations against Pakistan without any evidence” after New Delhi accused Pakistani spy agency of involvement in last week’s deadly attack on security forces in the disputed region of Kashmir.
“You accused the Pakistani government without providing any evidence, or saying what Pakistan stands to gain from this,” Khan said on Tuesday in a recorded statement.
The Pakistani prime minister said his government was ready to cooperate with India on the Kashmir attack investigation.
More than 40 Indian soldiers were killed in the suicide attack in Pulwama district, ratcheting up tensions with its nuclear-armed rival Pakistan.
“I am offering: if you want any kind of investigations … we are ready,” Khan said.
“If you have any actionable intelligence, give it to us, I guarantee that we will take action. And we will take action not because of [external] pressure, but because these people would be enemies of Pakistan. If anyone is acting from Pakistani soil, they are harming us.”
India blames ISI
Top military commander in Indian-administered Kashmir on Tuesday accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of “controlling” the attack claimed by a Pakistan-based armed group, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
“It was being controlled from across by ISI and Pakistan and JeM commanders,” Indian Lieutenant-General KJS Dhillon said at a press conference in Srinagar, capital of Indian-administered Kashmir state.
The Pakistan prime minister said his country was “ready to talk” with India over “terrorism”.
“… this is a new Pakistan … and it is in our interest not to allow anyone from Pakistan to go abroad and carry out attacks…”
“If Pakistan was doing such an important conference and visit … what fool would sabotage their own conference and visit like this?” he said referring to the visit of Saudi Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
India has said it has “incontrovertible evidence” of Pakistani involvement in the attack – the worst in more than two decades.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, facing an election by May, has warned Pakistan to expect a “strong response” to the bombing, raising fears of conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
Pakistan appeals to the UN
On Tuesday, Pakistan also appealed to the United Nations to intervene.
“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,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi wrote to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
“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.
JeM, an armed group said to be based in Pakistan that wants the Muslim-majority 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,” he said.
Kashmir is at the heart of decades of hostility between India and Pakistan. They both claim it in full but rule it in part.
India withdrew trade privileges offered to Pakistan after the bomb attack and has warned of further action.
The United States had told India it supported its right to defend itself against cross-border attacks, India said on Saturday.
With tension mounting, Pakistan withdrew its envoy to India for consultations, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Twitter on Monday.
Calls for revenge
The Thursday bomb attack has sparked outrage in India with calls for revenge circulating on social media, and rising animosity towards Kashmiri Muslims in other parts of the Hindu-majority country, to the alarm of rights groups.
“We are at a dangerous moment, and authorities must do everything they can to uphold the rule of law,” said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty India.
“Ordinary Kashmiris across India who are only seeking to improve their lives should not be singled out for violence simply because of where they come from.”
The anger has also spread to India’s two big obsessions: cricket and its Bollywood film industry.
Several cricket fans and a sport official have called on India to boycott a World Cup match against Pakistan in June, while the Cricket Club of India has covered up a portrait of the Pakistan prime minister – himself a former cricketer – at its Mumbai office.
The All India Cine Workers Association called for a “total ban” on Pakistanis working in India’s film industry, though they have been largely blacklisted from Bollywood since a similar attack in Kashmir in 2016 in which 19 soldiers died.