UNITED NATIONS — Pakistan’s prime minister took aim at India for its handling of the Kashmir situation Friday, pointedly accusing Indian leader Narendra Modi of “cruelty” in the Muslim-majority region and warning of catastrophe if the two nuclear-armed nations tumbled into war.
Two of the world’s most influential nations, China and Russia, were on the docket for later.
As protesters for both sides shouted outside the U.N. compound in New York City, Imran Khan said the actions of Modi’s government in the Indian portion of the disputed mountainous region of Kashmir were shortsighted and could end in a bloodbath.
Modi, in his address to world leaders an hour earlier, took a starkly different approach: While raising the specter of terrorism — a nod to the reasons he cited for clamping down on the region, angering Pakistan — he never uttered the word “Kashmir” and focused on India’s economic and infrastructure development.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region and have been locked in a standoff since Aug. 5, when Modi stripped limited autonomy from the portion of Kashmir that India controls. The two nations’ appearances at the U.N. General Assembly annual meeting of leaders this week had been highly anticipated in both the region and on the meeting’s sidelines.
WATCH: India denounces ‘rhetoric of false allegations’ after Pakistan warns of genocide in Kashmir
This year’s General Assembly has been punctuated by leaders’ absences as much as presences. While U.S. President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani showed up, both Russia’s and China’s top officials, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, opted to skip. North Korea sent a lower-level diplomat, and Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau stayed home to deal with an upcoming election.
Pakistan’s Khan said it would be folly to think that Kashmiris, kept home by curfews and fear of harsh treatment by Indian soldiers, would emerge from such a situation and simply return to daily life.
“I picture myself (if) I’m a Kashmiri,” he said. “I’ve been locked up for 55 days. There’ve been rapes, (the) Indian army going into homes, soldiers. Would I want this humiliation? Would I want to pick up a gun?”
Saying the United Nations had a responsibility for robust involvement in the problem, he said inaction would produce bad results.
“When a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, it will have consequences far beyond the borders. It will have consequences for the world,” Khan said. “That’s not a threat. It’s a fair worry. Where are we headed?
For his part, Modi cast the fight against terror as something that produces success only with international collaboration.
WATCH: What revoking Kashmir’s special status means
“The lack of unanimity among us on the issue of terrorism dents those very principles that are the basis for the creation of the United Nations,” he said in his address. “A fragmented world,” he said, “is in the interest of no one.”
Modi has defended the decision to strip Kashmir of its limited autonomy as freeing the territory from separatism. His supporters welcomed the move.
— The Associated Press writers Ted Anthony and Foster Klug contributed to this report.