India on Sunday rejected United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ offer to mediate on Jammu and Kashmir, reported PTI. Hours after the UN chief, who is on a visit to Pakistan, said he was “deeply concerned” and was ready to help if India and Pakistan agreed, New Delhi underlined that there was “no role or scope for third party mediation” on the Kashmir matter.

“India’s position has not changed,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar. “Jammu and Kashmir has been, is, and will continue to be an integral part of India. The issue that needs to be addressed is that of vacation of the territories illegally and forcibly occupied by Pakistan. Further issues, if any, would be discussed bilaterally. There is no role or scope for third party mediation.”

Kumar added that New Delhi hoped the UN secretary general would stress on the imperative for Pakistan to end the “cross-border terrorism” against India. He said “cross-border terrorism” threatens the most fundamental human right – the right to life of the people of India, including in Jammu and Kashmir.

Earlier in the day, Guterres said it was important for India and Pakistan to de-escalate “militarily and verbally” and exercise “maximum restraint”. He addressed a press conference after his meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. “I offered my good offices from the beginning,” said the UN chief. “I am ready to help if both countries agree for mediation.”

Guterres stressed that “diplomacy and dialogue” were the only tools that guarantee peace and stability. “UNMOGIP [UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan] should be given free access,” said the UN chief, according to The Indian Express. “It is already there on the Pakistan side, and it should also be given on the other side.” India maintains that UNMOGIP has outlived its utility and is irrelevant after the Simla Agreement and the consequent establishment of the LoC.

Ties between India and Pakistan have been strained since February 2019 after the Pulwama attack in which 40 soldiers were killed. Pakistan, which has fought three wars with India for Kashmir since Independence, did not take India’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status well, leading to a drastic escalation of tension between the neighbours.

Before Guterres, United States President Donald Trump has offered a number of times to mediate in the Kashmir dispute since August 5, when the Indian government scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and split in into two Union Territories. But the offers were turned down by India every time.