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Trump advises India, Pakistan to reduce tensions in call with leaders

President Donald Trump talks on the phone aboard Air Force One during a flight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address a joint gathering of House and Senate Republicans, Thursday, January 26, 2017. This was the President’s first trip aboard Air Force One. (Shealah Craighead/White House)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he spoke with the leaders of Pakistan and India on August 19 on easing tensions in Kashmir, a disputed region both countries claim as their own.

“Spoke to my two good friends Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi of India, and Prime Minister [Imran] Khan of Pakistan, regarding trade, strategic partnerships and, most importantly, for India and Pakistan to work towards reducing tensions in Kashmir. A tough situation, but good conversations!” Trump tweeted on August 19.

It was Khan’s second conversation with Trump in three days.

Pakistan wants a UN observer mission “dispatched forthwith” to Indian-administered Kashmir and for a curfew there to be canceled “immediately,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in Islamabad.

Trump’s phone calls to the leaders came amid reports that Indian troops on August 18 fired across the Line of Control in Kashmir, killing two civilians and wounding one.

Pakistan and India often exchange fire in the Himalayan region, but tensions have increased since August 5, when New Delhi canceled the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir, cut off Internet and phone services, and strictly limited the movements by the public.

Kashmir is split between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said on August 19 that civilian casualties occurred the previous day because of “unprovoked cease-fire violations” by India in the border villages of Hot Spring and Chirikot.

Pakistan summoned an Indian envoy and lodged an official protest over continued cease-fire violations, which “are a threat to regional peace.”

Two out of the three wars Pakistan and India have fought since gaining independence from Britain in 1947 were over control of Kashmir.

India says it’s gradually restoring phone lines and easing the lockdown. Public buses were running in rural areas, but troops restricted the movement of people on mostly deserted streets in Srinagar, the region’s main city.

Some Kashmir schools reopened on August 19, AFP reported, but were largely empty. Local authorities said 190 primary schools were reopening in Srinagar.

AFP reported that about 20 percent of landline phone connections had been restored, but mobile phone and Internet connections remained severed on August 19.