ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan army said on Wednesday if diplomatic efforts to resolve a recent conflict with India over the disputed Kashmir region did not succeed, the war would become an “option by compulsion if not by choice.”
Arch-rivals Indian and Pakistan have fought two wars over the Kashmir region that both rule in full and govern in part. Their forces regularly trade fire across a 740-km old cease-fire line, known as the Line of Control, the de-facto border.
Recently, tensions flared between the nations when India on August 5 revoked the constitutional autonomy of the part of the Himalayan region of Kashmir that it administers and moved to quell objections by shutting down communications and clamping down on local leaders. Pakistan has reacted with fury to India’s decision, cutting trade and transport ties and expelling India’s ambassador.
Addressing a press conference at the army’s headquarters, military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said: “If diplomatic efforts don’t succeed war becomes an option by compulsion if not by choice.”
However, he also said there was no room for war between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India, reiterating that India’s move to revoke the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir and impose a curfew and communication blackout there had put peace and stability of the entire region at risk.
“Our strategic [nuclear] capability is for deterrence, and there is no room for war between nuclear powers,” Ghafoor said, warning that the situation in Kashmir posed a threat to regional stability and security and the Pakistan army would stand by Kashmiris and “go to any length” to help them achieve their right of self-determination.
“The fascist and extremist mindset in India is a threat to regional stability and progress,” he said, adding that Pakistan had effectively responded to all Indian challenges of escalation and provocation in the past twenty years.
“Kashmir is a jugular vein of Pakistan and we want its peaceful solution as per the resolutions of the United Nations and the aspirations of the people of Kashmir,” the army spokesman said.
Responding to recent media reports quoting Prime Minister Imran Khan as saying Pakistan would not use nuclear weapons against India first, the spokesman clarified: “We don’t have any such policy of ‘no first use’ [of nuclear weapons],” adding that the Pakistani armed forces were resolved to respond to any threat by India in a “befitting manner.”
The spokesman said the Pakistan government was making diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict with India because “we don’t want to put regional and global peace at risk. But if all these avenues fail, war fighting will become an option by compulsion if not by choice.”
“We are ready to fight till the last bullet, last soldier and last breath [for Kashmir’s freedom], and it is now up to India and rest of the world to make a choice,” Ghafoor added.
In response to a question about a recent meeting between PM Khan and US President Donald Trump, Ghafoor said: “No compromise has been made on Kashmir [during the meeting]. You should have trust and confidence in your leadership.”
“President Trump is a very straightforward leader who calls a spade a spade,” he said, adding that Pakistan was playing a constructive role in ongoing peace talks in Afghanistan where an 18-year-long civil war continues between security forces and Taliban militants.