UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that Pakistan’s role in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan following the US troop withdrawal in 2014 will be among the main topics his discussions with Pakistani leadership during his two-day visit to Islamabad, beginning Tuesday.

In an interview on Monday the UN chief, who is visiting Islamabad at a time of escalated tensions between India and Pakistan, voiced his concern over the renewed violence at the border in Kashmir and called on both the neighbouring states to resolve the Kashmir and other bilateral issues through peaceful means.

Ban also offered his good offices for mediation on Kashmir issue. But experts point out that India has consistently rebuffed such offers, whether by the UN or any other third party, arguing that solutions must arise bilaterally. And even in a bilateral format, very little progress has been made because of India’s refusal to come to grips with the core issue of Kashmir.

“While I am saddened by the loss of lives in the course of all this conflict, I am relatively, reasonably encouraged by the recent move by both sides to engage in dialogue, to resolve their source of conflict through dialogue – that I will strongly welcome and support,” Ban said in response to the question if he could help leaders of India and Pakistan resolve the decades-old dispute, which is on the agenda of the UN Security Council.

However, he noted, “I know that this (Kashmir) is a long-standing issue, but the UN military observers (UNMOGIP) has been trying to prevent any conflict (across) the Line of Control. But you should know that UNMOGIP is not mandated with any political role. So, these political issues should be handled and discussed by the leaders of both governments,” Ban said.

“First, I would expect the Indian and Pakistani leadership to continue their dialogue, to create some confidence building measures. I was encouraged to see that there was a Kashmiri bus service – between the Indian and Pakistani sides.... There is some increase in the lines of communications between the leaders. And this may be small, but you can expand this one, that my offer of good office remains available. If both sides think this is useful and both sides agree, then I’ll be ready to offer my good offices,” the secretary-general added.

Referring to the security vacuum to be left behind by troop pullout from Afghanistan, the secretary-general said, “There should be a strong regional cooperation. This is why I am visiting Pakistan. It is one of our priority agendas, which I will be discussing with Prime Minister (Nawaz) Sharif and President (Asif Ali) Zardari.“

Responding to a question about the deep concern and anger in Pakistan over the continuing US drone strikes in the country that have killed and injured many civilians, Ban urged the countries or any group operating armed drones to strictly adhere to the international laws regulating UAVs (unmanned ariel vehicles). “The UN really and strongly urges that all these UAVs should be strictly regulated and controlled under international laws, including international humanitarian laws,” he added.

About recent surge in terrorist activity in Pakistan, Ban said, “I am very much saddened by all that has happened in Pakistan... I strongly condemn these heinous terrorist attacks against civilians. This must stop. This must be stopped. When asked how the rampant terrorism in Pakistan can be brought under control, the secretary-general said terrorism is something which needs a collective and coordinated response of the whole international community. “I am going to emphasise and work together with world leaders to strengthen the UN’s and international community’s capacity in fighting terrorism,” he said.

“Pakistan alone, or any other country alone, may not (be able to) fight against terrorism alone; that is why the UN General Assembly conducted a global counter terrorism strategy in December 2006, by consensus. We have this Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Forces (CTIF). We have established UN Counter-Terrorism Centres. As you might have read the statement by the Saudi King presenting $100 million – that’s a very generous support. This is a global effort,” the secretary-general said.

He said he would also exchange ideas on how Pakistan could accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals – in education, poverty eradiation and gender equality. Pakistan is among a few countries that are lagging behind in meeting the targets. On floods in Pakistan, the secretary-general urged Pakistan to invest more in disaster risk reduction, citing the success of some flood-prone countries that adopted preventive measures. Ban described as “good message” the first-ever transfer of power in Pakistan from a civilian government to another democratically elected government.

About the ongoing conflict in Syria, the secretary-general said he was working hard to convene the second Geneva peace conference in the second week of September, citing his recent meetings with the representatives of two of its sponsors— Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry. “There is no military solution, only a political solution.”