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Pakistan Sees U.N. Meeting On Kashmir As Promising 1st Step


Yesterday, the U.N. Security Council held a closed-door meeting to discuss the conflict in Kashmir. It comes after India's decision to revoke the Muslim-majority region's special semi-autonomous status. Indian-controlled Kashmir remains under a military lockdown. And India says it is now restoring landline telephone services and easing curfews that Indian officials say were meant as a precaution. Pakistan and China, though, continue to raise alarms at the United Nations, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Kashmir is disputed between India and Pakistan. For decades, India has managed to keep this dispute off the agenda of the U.N. Security Council, describing it as a bilateral not a multilateral issue. So Pakistan saw Friday's closed-door consultations as a diplomatic win. Here's how Pakistan's ambassador, Maleeha Lodhi, put it.


MALEEHA LODHI: The voice of the Kashmiri people, the voice of people of occupied Kashmir has been heard today in the highest diplomatic forum of the world. They are not alone.

KELEMEN: She says this was a first step but not the last.


LODHI: The fact that this meeting took place is testimony to the fact that this is an internationally recognized dispute.

KELEMEN: India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, claim Kashmir in its entirety. Each side, though, controls only part of it. India says the actions it took, recently, to revoke the special status of Indian-controlled Kashmir was an administrative move meant to boost investment in the region. Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin says this is an internal matter with no international ramifications, so not something for U.N. diplomats to discuss.


SYED AKBARUDDIN: Please give us some time. We are addressing it in a democratic manner, in a manner that - we are committed to address difficulties that our people in Jammu and Kashmir are facing.

KELEMEN: He says the government is easing some of the restrictions placed on Kashmir in the wake of the change in its status. Officials have placed some Kashmiri political figures under house arrest, imposed curfews and blocked communications. Ambassador Akbaruddin says these were temporary preventive steps to maintain order. He accuses Pakistan of trying to incite Kashmiris.


AKBARUDDIN: We are saddened that terrorism is being fueled. Language and incendiary talk of jihad is being mentioned by people who should know better.

KELEMEN: President Trump on Friday spoke with Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan. The White House says he stressed the need for India and Pakistan to reduce tensions through dialogue. Indian officials say they've been talking to State Department officials and members of Congress, adding they get the sense that the U.S. and others are taking a wait-and-see approach to the situation. China's ambassador to the U.N., Zhang Jun, whose country controls a small part of Kashmir, was one of the only ambassadors to speak, publicly, after the closed-door U.N. discussions.


ZHANG JUN: China is deeply concerned about the current situation and opposes any unilateral action that complicates the situation. And we call upon the relevant parties to exercise restraint.

KELEMEN: He says that was the general view of ambassadors around the table who are worried about what he calls a very tense and dangerous situation.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.