Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan warned the UN in stark terms on Friday of the threat of a “bloodbath” in Kashmir, even invoking the possibility that its dispute with India over the territory could escalate into an all-out nuclear war.

The Indian-controlled part of Kashmir has been under lockdown since New Delhi scrapped its semi-autonomous status in early August, and Khan said armed forces there would turn on the population after the curfew was lifted.

“There are 900,000 troops there, they haven’t come to, as Narendra Modi says – for the prosperity of Kashmir… These 900,000 troops, what are they going to do? When they come out? There will be a bloodbath,” Khan told the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

He added that there could be a repeat of the fighting between the nuclear-armed neighbours seen in February if India blamed Pakistan for any home-grown militant attacks in response to the repression in the Muslim-majority territory.

“If a conventional war starts between the two countries, anything could happen. But supposing a country seven times smaller than its neighbour is faced with the choice: either you surrender, or you fight for your freedom till death?” Khan said.

“What will we do? I ask myself these questions. We will fight… and when a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, it will have consequences far beyond the borders.”

Prime Minister Modi spoke earlier but did not explicitly mention Kashmir, choosing instead to focus on domestic policies such as development and sanitation.

He did, however, make an oblique reference to Pakistan, telling fellow leaders: “We belong to a country that has given the world, not war, but Buddha’s message of peace.

“And that is the reason why our voice against terrorism, to alert the world about this evil rings with seriousness and outrage.” (AFP)