Pakistan has decided to downgrade its diplomatic ties with neighboring India and suspend bilateral trade in response to New Delhi’s decision to reduce the special status of Kashmir, a Himalayan region claimed by both countries.
The decision was made yesterday at a meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Committee led by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by the heads of the armed forces and senior government officials. The government said in a statement that Pakistan will also review other aspects of relations with India.
It also decided to ask the United Nations, including the Security Council, to pressure India to reverse its decision to strip statehood and other rights from the portion of Kashmir it administers.
Meanwhile, thousands of Indian security forces kept a lid on protests in disputed Kashmir yesterday, helped by the continued suspension of telephone and internet services after the Himalayan region’s special status was scrapped this week.
Media reports said more than 100 people including political leaders and activists have been arrested for being a threat to the peace. There is already hostility towards scores of migrant labourers lugging heavy bags as they look for transport out of the territory.
Neighbours China and Pakistan, which both claim parts of the region, have voiced fierce opposition to India’s move dropping a constitutional provision that had allowed the country’s only Muslim-majority state to make its own laws.
Streets in the region’s main city of Srinagar were deserted for a third day, with almost all shops shut, barring some chemists. Armed federal police manned mobile checkpoints across the city, limiting people’s movement.
Knots of young protesters threw stones at soldiers, police and a witness said, amid anger over the telecoms clampdown that began on Sunday. “These (protests) are mostly localized because of the heavy troop deployment,” said a police officer who sought anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, adding that police used tear gas and pepper spray to scatter the protesters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government detained regional leaders and heads of separatist groups before Monday’s announcement, which also split the state into two federal territories to ensure greater control. India has been fighting an armed revolt in Kashmir since 1989, which it blames Pakistan for stoking. In reply, Islamabad says it only gives moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.