FILE - In this April 21, 2020, file photo, a Muslim man, among 29 people arrested by Indian authorities, sits inside an…
FILE - In this April 21, 2020, photo, a Muslim man, among 29 people arrested by Indian authorities, awaits transport to a Prayagraj, India, prison. Muslims in India face stigma after the government blamed an Islamic meeting for a coronavirus surge.

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged the United Nations to universally outlaw what he called rising Islamophobia in many countries, including neighboring India.

In a prerecorded speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, the Pakistani leader denounced the fresh publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly.

“Muslims continue to be targeted with impunity in many countries,” Khan said. He added that rising trends of religious hatred and violence “in the name of freedom of speech” have accentuated Islamophobia.

“We stress that willful provocations and incitement to hate and violence must be universally outlawed,” Khan said. “This assembly should declare an ‘International Day to Combat Islamophobia’ and build a coalition to fight this scourge.”

Khan again assailed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government for allegedly turning the country into a state sponsor of religious hatred and violence against nearly 200 million minority Muslims who live in India.

“They believe that India is exclusively for Hindus and others are not equal citizens,” the Pakistani leader said.

India’s U.N. representative, T.S. Tirumurti, took to Twitter to denounce Khan’s speech, calling it “a new diplomatic low” full of “vicious falsehood.”

Pakistan’s military tensions with India have escalated since August 2019, when the Indian government revoked a decades long semi-autonomous status for India-administered two-thirds of Kashmir and split it into two union territories.

Islamabad, which administers the remaining one-third of the disputed Himalayan region, rejected the move, saying that Kashmir is an internationally recognized disputed territory under a long-standing U.N. Security Council resolution and neither country can unilaterally change the status.

Both nuclear-armed South Asia rival nations claim Kashmir in its entirety and have fought two wars over it.

Increased bilateral tensions in recent months have led to almost daily military skirmishes along the Line of Control, which separates Pakistan- and Indian-ruled parts of Kashmir, rendering almost ineffective a 2003 mutual cease-fire truce.

Khan warned Friday “India is playing a dangerous game of upping the military ante against Pakistan in a nuclearized environment” to divert attention from Indian "illegal actions and atrocities" in Kashmir.

India alleges Pakistan trains and arms Kashmiri insurgents fighting New Delhi’s rule.

Islamabad rejects the charges, saying it provides only diplomatic, political and moral support to what Pakistan describes as an indigenous struggle for Kashmir’s freedom.

India’s August 2019 action coupled with a security clampdown in Muslim-majority Kashmir has drawn criticism from U.N. and global rights defenders.

Indian security forces have arrested thousands of Kashmiris, including politicians and civil society activists, to deter violent protests against its actions.

Khan has routinely used international platforms to highlight the plight of Muslims, but critics say his persistent silence, like that of leaders in many other Muslim countries, on China’s alleged abuses against its Muslim minority Uighur population undermines Pakistan’s argument.

Islamabad and Beijing maintain close economic and military ties. In recent years, the relationship has cemented in the wake of billions of dollars in Chinese investment in Pakistan, building roads, ports, power plants, industrial zones and other major infrastructure projects. 

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