Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday brought up the Kashmir issue at the inauguration of the historic Kartarpur corridor, saying it has gone beyond a territorial dispute and any improvement in ties between India and Pakistan depends on delivering justice to people of the Valley.
Urging India to lift all restrictions from Kashmir, Khan said leaders of both the countries can usher in peace and development in the region by resolving the over seven-decades old dispute through talks.
"If Modi is listening, (I would like to convey) that justice brings peace and injustice spreads confusion. We want to free ourselves from this problem (Kashmir issue)," he said.
The Pakistan Prime Minister was speaking after dedicating the Kartarpur corridor to Sikh community at a colourful ceremony. The corridor links Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur in India to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev.
Khan said after coming to power, he had conveyed Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their first meeting that it should be resolved. I told Modi why cannot we resolve the dispute.
"What we are witnessing in Kashmir today, it is not a territorial issue anymore. It has escalated to a humanitarian crisis. Unfortunately things have gotten even worse for the people of Kashmir who are treated like animals, deprived of their basic human rights. Around 80 lakh people in Kashmir are besieged by the presence of 9 lakh soldiers," Khan said.
On August 5, India revoked the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into two union territories- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, drawing a sharp reaction from Pakistan.
Reacting angrily to the move, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with India and expelled the Indian high commissioner.
"Resolution of Kashmir issue will lead to greater prosperity and mutual development of India and Pakistan. Kashmir issue has resulted 70 years of hatred between the two countries. India must ensure justice to people of Kashmir. Hope one day our relationship will improve," he said.
Prime minister Khan also said a leader will always bring people together and will not divide them.
"Those who collect vote by spreading hatred are not leaders. A leader does not spread hatred and seek votes on the basis religion," he said.
Referring to Modi thanking him after flagging off the first batch of pilgrims, Khan said the appreciation will have real meaning if people in Kashmir get justice.
"I also foresee a day when the hatred that has spread in the sub-continent over the past 70 years due to this dispute will go away. When the Kashmir issue is resolved and Kashmiris get their rights, the sub-continent will see prosperity and our entire region will rise in the world, Khan said.
Our relationship will only move forward if justice is delivered to the people of Kashmir, the Pakistan Prime Minister added.
Foreign Minister Qureshi in his speech noted that while Modi thanked Khan for opening the corridor, will the Indian prime minister also give his Pakistani counterpart the chance to thank him.
"You can do so by lifting the curfew in Kashmir, ending the use of pellet guns, ending the violations of human rights [and] by ending the communication blackout," he said.
Qureshi said just as the doors of Kartarpur have opened, the doors of Srinagar's Jamia Masjid should also be opened so that the Kashmiris can offer Friday prayers.
The inauguration of the corridor comes in the midst of frayed ties between India and Pakistan following the New Delhi's August 5 decision.
Notwithstanding a chill in bilateral ties over Kashmir, India and Pakistan after tough negotiations signed an agreement last month, paving the way for the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor on November 9.
The agreement will allow 5,000 Indian pilgrims daily to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)