Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

Pakistan cuts all ties with India over Kashmir

Islamabad reacts to Indian government's moves to alter status of disputed region

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi addresses a press conference at the foreign ministry in Islamabad on August 8, 2019. AFP
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi addresses a press conference at the foreign ministry in Islamabad on August 8, 2019. AFP

Diplomatic ties between Pakistan and India collapsed on Thursday, three days after India decided to bifurcate the state of Jammu & Kashmir and bring both sections directly under federal rule.

Pakistan asked the Indian high commissioner in Islamabad to leave, suspended bilateral trade with India, and shut down the single train service running across the border. It also announced that its own envoy to New Delhi, who was supposed to begin his assignment soon, would now no longer be deputed to the Indian capital.

Like India, Pakistan has long claimed Kashmir, and a section of the region is under Pakistani control.

The Indian government responded on Thursday by urging Pakistan to reconsider its decisions. “The recent developments [surrounding Kashmir] are entirely the internal affair of India,” a government statement out of New Delhi said. “Seeking to interfere in that jurisdiction by invoking an alarmist vision of the region will never succeed.”

Even as Kashmir remained tense and isolated – with phone lines and internet services suspended, schools and shops shut, a curfew in place and soldiers on the streets in riot gear – Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on Thursday evening to defend his government’s decision.

Mr Modi said that Article 370, the constitutional statute that gave Jammu & Kashmir special autonomy, “gave only separatism, nepotism, and corruption” to the state.

He promised more jobs and more federal support to the region, and he invited Hindi, Tamil and Telugu film industries to shoot more movies in the Kashmir valley, a locale popular for its scenic beauty.

He also said that the new status of union territory — enforced upon the two halves of the erstwhile state, and giving the federal government administrative control over them — would end soon.

“You will get the opportunity to elect your representatives soon,” Mr Modi told the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

The Indian government has been eager to portray the tension over its sudden move as a passing side-effect. On Wednesday, Ajit Doval, the national security adviser, toured the streets of Shopian, a town in the south of Kashmir, assuring residents that “everything will be all right”.

One official referred to the festival of Eid, next Monday. “I cannot share the details, but the government is planning something to provide relief to the people on the occasion of the festival,” the unnamed official told The Hindu newspaper.

But the effort to suppress dissidence has been paramount. Hundreds of Kashmiris, including politicians, legislators, academics and activists, have been detained by security forces as a pre-emptive measure. Some of these activists and political workers are being held in temporary detention centres

When Ghulam Nabi Azad, a senior Kashmiri leader from the opposition Congress party, flew into Srinagar on Thursday morning, he was first stopped from leaving the airport and then sent back to New Delhi in the afternoon.

Until now, protests have been sporadic. Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, has witnessed a few incidents of citizens throwing stones at the police since Tuesday night. At least 13 people have been reported injured in police retaliation against the protests.

The first casualty of the new order in Kashmir was reported by HuffPost India: a 17-year-old named Osaib Altaf, who was among a group of boys being chased by Indian troops on Monday afternoon. Cornered on a footbridge over a river, the boys jumped into the water to escape. Altaf, who did not know how to swim, drowned.

A report from the Press Trust of India agency later stated that Altaf and the others had been chased “because of confusion over curfew”.

Updated: August 8, 2019 09:09 PM

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