British foreign secretary on Pakistan visit calls for end to Kashmir violence

Ceasefire violations by Pakistan have been reported in multiple places in Jammu and Kashmir. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory, Pakistan Nov 24, 2016, 01.53 PM (IST)

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, on a visit to Pakistan, today called for an end to violence in Kashmir while he was speaking in Islamabad.

Tensions between India and Pakistan are holding the region back from becoming an "incredible boomzone", he said.

Johnson, on his first visit to Pakistan, said that former colonial power Britain could not act as a mediator in the nearly 70-year-old dispute over the Himalayan region.

India and Pakistan must find a "lasting solution" he said, a day after Pakistan said that at least nine people were killed in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir when a civilian bus was hit by cross-border fire.

The two nuclear-armed neighbours have seen months of tensions leading to the Pakistani and Indian military officials speaking via a special hotline on Wednesday.

Johnson also expressed grief over the "mutual sequestration" of the Indian and Pakistani economies. 

"Look at the incredible human potential of Pakistan and its neighbours... and then imagine what the future could be like if this was sorted out. What an incredible boomzone it could be," AFP reported him as saying.

India had blamed Pakistani militants for a raid on its army base in Uri that killed 19 Indian Army soldiers on September 9.

India had responded by carrying out "surgical strikes" across the border, while Islamabad had denied them.

Frequent cross-border firings have marred the area ever since, with both sides reporting deaths including of civilians and soldiers.

The Indian foreign ministry on Thursday also accused Pakistan of targeting civilians in villages along the LoC, and of supporting "armed terrorists".

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since British rule ended in 1947. Both claim the territory in full and have fought two wars over the mountainous region.

Rebel groups have fought Indian soldiers in Kashmir for decades for independence from India. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people.

(WION with inputs from AFP)