Pak hand in UN chief's anti-India Kashmir remark?

The role of the Pakistani-origin spokesperson of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has come under scanner with the denial of the UN chief's controversial remarks on Kashmir by his office.

Spokesperson Farhan Haq e-mailed a statement to journalists at the UN headquarters in New York last week stating that Ban "is concerned over the prevailing security situation" in "Indian-administered Kashmir". This was a reference to the turmoil in the Kashmir valley in which a number of lives have been lost.

Haq went on to say that the Secretary General called on "all concerned to exercise utmost restraint and address problems peacefully."

Concerned over the gratuitous remarks, which were seen as a departure from diplomatic norms, India took up the matter through its mission to the UN.

The Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement here today that Ban's office has clarified that no question about Kashmir was raised at any press conference "nor was any such comment made by the UN Secretary General."

This denial also applies to another part of Haq's statement which talked about Secretary-General's backing the resumption of composite dialogue between Indian and Pakistan which New Delhi does not favour unless Islamabad addresses the issue of terrorism.

The denial flies in the face of Haq's statement which said, "He (Ban) encourages both sides to rekindle the spirit of composite dialogue which was initiated in 2004 and had made encouraging progress on some important confidence building measures, and to make renewed efforts to address outstanding issues, including on Jammu and Kashmir."

Diplomatic observers here were of the view that either Haq had issued an unauthorised statement or Moon's office was backtracking in the face of Indian reaction.

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