India yesterday revoked the special status of Kashmir, the Himalayan region that has long been a flashpoint in ties with neighbouring Pakistan, moving to grasp its only Muslim-majority region more tightly.
In the most far-reaching political move in one of the world’s most militarized regions in nearly seven decades, India said it would scrap a constitutional provision that allows its state of Jammu and Kashmir to make its own laws.
“The entire constitution will be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir,” Interior Minister Amit Shah told parliament, as opposition lawmakers voiced loud protests against the repeal. The government also lifted a ban on property purchases by non-residents, opening the way for Indians to invest and settle there, just as they can elsewhere in India, although the measure is likely to provoke a backlash in the region.
Pakistan, which also claims Kashmir, said it strongly condemned the decision, which is bound to further strain ties between the nuclear-armed rivals. “As the party to this international dispute, Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps,” its foreign ministry said in a statement.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, convulsed by a nearly 30-year armed revolt in which tens of thousands of people have died, with hundreds of thousands of Indian troops deployed to quell it.
India blames that rebellion on Pakistan, which denies the accusation, saying that it backs the right to self-determination for Kashmir. Hours earlier the Indian government launched a security crackdown in the region, arresting local leaders, suspending telephone and internet services and restricting public movement in the main city of Srinagar.
Regional leaders have previously said stripping Kashmir’s special status amounts to aggression against its people. The streets in Srinagar were largely deserted as travel curbs kept people indoors, said a Reuters photographer who found a telephone connection in a restaurant near the city’s airport.