Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appeared on state media to defend his highly controversial decision to remove the special status accorded to Kashmir.
Modi said a “new era” was beginning for the Indian-administered part of the region, where “hindrances” to its development had been lifted. The area has been in lockdown since Sunday night, with mobile, landline and internet networks cut off.
“The scrapping of Article 370 is the beginning of a new era,” Modi said. Kashmir’s special status, the prime minister argued, had been used as a weapon by Pakistan to “instigate some people”, but now India would rid the region of “terrorism and terrorists”.
“There will be a lot of development,” he said. “All the citizens will be given their rights.” He promised greater voting rights and transparency, as well as better rail and road links, and said the young people of Kashmir should “take charge of the development of their own land”.
Modi made his address via a broadcast on TV and radio, the latter the only platform that could reach Kashmiris while the region was still under lockdown. Modi’s speech came amid uncertainty and division. While many Indians welcomed the move and lauded Modi’s government for its decisiveness, others criticised India for what they said were heavy-handed and even unconstitutional tactics.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has said it will not resort to military action in the row over Kashmir. This was disclosed by its foreign minister yesterday, as tensions soared over New Delhi’s decision to tighten its grip on the disputed region. The statement by Shah Mehmood Qureshi eased fears of an all-out clash between the South Asian neighbours, who have already fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region but none since they both gained nuclear weapons.
“Pakistan is not looking at the military option. We are rather looking at political, diplomatic, and legal options to deal with the prevailing situation,” said Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during a press conference in Islamabad.