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UN Chief Offers To Mediate Kashmir Dispute Between India, Pakistan

An independent Kashmir lawmaker, Abdul Rashid Sheikh, center, and his supporters shout slogans during a protest march in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, on September 26.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has offered to act as a mediator between India and Pakistan to defuse escalating tensions over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

The offer came on September 30 after Pakistan's UN ambassador met with Ban and urged him to personally intervene in what she called an increasingly "dangerous" situation between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

Ban called on "both sides to exercise maximum restraint and take immediate steps to deescalate the situation," his spokesman said.

The UN chief said India and Pakistan should address differences through diplomacy and dialogue and offered to mediate.

"His good offices are available, if accepted by both sides," the UN spokesman said.

Tensions between the two archrivals have mounted since the Indian government accused Pakistan-based militants of launching an assault on an army base in Kashmir earlier this month that killed 18 soldiers.

India on September 29 said it had carried out "surgical strikes" several kilometers inside Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on what they called "terrorist" targets.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif responded that the Indian action was "unprovoked" and said Islamabad is ready "to counter any aggressive Indian designs."

That prompted India on September 30 to start evacuating villages near the disputed border that divides control of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, citing concerns about a military escalation.

"This is a dangerous moment for the region," Pakistan's Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said after meeting with Ban at UN headquarters in New York on September 30. "The time has come for bold intervention by him if we are to avoid a crisis, because we can see a crisis building up."

Lodhi accused India of creating "conditions that pose a threat to regional and international peace and security."

India's mission to the United Nations told AFP that "India has no desire to aggravate the situation" and stressed that the counterterrorist strike was "focused in terms of targets and geographical space."

"With our objectives having been met, that effort has since ceased," the Indian mission said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN chief has been following the situation "with great concern," citing the escalating rhetoric and maneuvering by both sides.

A UN military observer mission is looking into reports of violations of a 2003 cease-fire along the line of control and will report to Ban, he said.

The U.S. State Department on September 30 repeated its call for "calm and restraint" by both sides.

"Nuclear-capable states have a clear responsibility to exercise restraint regarding nuclear weapons and missile capabilities," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

The Pakistani UN ambassador said she suggested to Ban that to avert a crisis, he move up his plans to visit India and Pakistan, now scheduled for November.

Lodhi also met this week with the current Security Council president, New Zealand Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, to ask that the council keep a close eye on developments.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they gained independence from Britain seven decades ago, two of them over Kashmir.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters