The abrogation of the special status to Jammu and Kashmir by India has triggered international and regional repercussion, with the United Nations urging restraints, the United States closely following the events and China claiming that it undermines the Chinese territorial sovereignty.
While the move of Narendra Modi earned praise and drew criticism in India, Pakistan is reported to be thinking of mounting pressure on India over the issue.
United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres urged India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, his spokesman said on Monday, after India revoked the special status of Kashmir, the Himalayan region that has long been a flashpoint in ties with neighbouring Pakistan.
‘We urge all parties to exercise restraint,’ UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters, adding that UN peacekeepers observing a ceasefire between India and Pakistan in the state of Jammu and Kashmir ‘has observed and reported an increase in military activity along the line of control.’
The US State Department said it was closely following events in Kashmir and expressed concern about reports of detentions.
‘We are concerned about reports of detentions and urge respect for individual rights and discussion with those in affected communities,’ the department’s spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. ‘We call on all parties to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control.’
China said on Tuesday it opposed India’s decision to revoke the special status of Kashmir, a disputed region sandwiched among India, Pakistan and China, because it undermined China’s territorial sovereignty.
In a move to tighten its grip on the Himalayan region, India dropped a constitutional provision that allowed the country’s only Muslim-majority region to make its own laws.
‘India’s action is unacceptable and would not have any legal effect,’ foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement on the ministry’s web site.
But India warned China that the government’s contentious move to strip Kashmir of its autonomy and split the region into two parts was an ‘internal matter’.
Meanwhile, prime minister Narendra Modi’s decision is a bold gamble to end a three-decades old armed revolt and draw the territory closer to the rest of India, the country’s media said on Tuesday.
The Hindu nationalist-led government on Monday scrapped a constitutional provision that allowed the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir to make its own laws and barred non-residents from buying property there.
‘History, in one stroke,’ ran a front-page headline in the Indian Express newspaper after the biggest political move in nearly 70 years in one of the world’s most militarised regions.
‘Mission Kashmir Accomplished: In one swift stroke, India gets special status in state,’ The Economic Times said on its front page.
Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has long advocated for an end to Kashmir’s special status, saying it hindered the region’s development and spurred young people to join the insurgency against Indian rule.
But no government has tried to change the autonomy granted to Kashmir after it acceded to India in 1947, fearing more violence in a region where tens of thousands of people have died in the insurgency and India has fought two wars with rival Pakistan, which also has claims over the region.
‘BJP’s Kashmir move is bold, but has risks,’ the Hindustan Times newspaper said in its editorial, adding that the government must now reach out to Kashmiris.
The government gave no prior warning that it planned to withdraw Kashmir’s special status and divide the state into two federally-administered territories.
‘PARTITION of minds and a state. This time by the largest democracy on the planet, without asking J&K,’ The Telegraph newspaper said on its front page.
The measure is likely to provoke a backlash in the region, where hours before Monday’s decision Indian authorities arrested local leaders and cut off mobile, internet and cable television networks in a bid to prevent protests.
‘The government has a responsibility to ensure security in Kashmir, but that means respecting the human rights of everyone, including protesters,’ said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a New Delhi-based political analyst, said the government had undermined India’s democratic principles by forcing change in Kashmir.
‘There are times in the history of a republic when it reduces itself to a jackboot. Nothing more and nothing less. We are witnessing that moment in Kashmir,’ Mehta wrote in an opinion piece for the Indian Express.
Criticism mounted from opposition politicians on Tuesday, with Rahul Gandhi, until recently the head of the main opposition Congress party, saying the decision was an ‘abuse of executive power’ that had ‘grave implications for our national security’.
‘National integration isn’t furthered by unilaterally tearing apart J&K, imprisoning elected representatives and violating our Constitution. This nation is made by its people, not plots of land,’ he wrote on Twitter.
However, Pakistan said it was considering further diplomatic and military pressure on India after the Hindu-majority nation stripped its portion of contested Kashmir of special status.
India on Monday dropped a constitutional provision for the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which has long been a flashpoint in ties with neighbouring Pakistan, to make its own laws.
Nuclear arch-rivals India and Pakistan both claim Muslim-majority Kashmir in full but rule it in part. They have fought two wars over the territory and came close to a third this year after a car bomb set off by a Pakistan-based militant group killed dozens of Indian paramilitary police.
Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday India’s removal of special status for Kashmir, which included prohibiting outsiders from owning property, was an attempt to alter the demographics of the region and was illegal under international law.
‘We will fight it at every forum. We’re thinking how we can take it to International Court (of Justice)... to the United Nations Security Council,’ Khan said in an address to Pakistan’s parliament.
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi wrote to United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres on Tuesday, accusing India of violating Security Council resolutions on Kashmir.
Earlier on Tuesday, Pakistan’s army chief said the country’s military will ‘go to any extent’ to support people in the region.
‘Pakistan Army firmly stands by the Kashmiris in their just struggle to the very end,’ said general Qamar Javed Bajwa after meeting with top commanders in Rawalpindi.
‘We are prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfil our obligations in this regard,’ he added, without elaborating further.
In Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir around 45km from the contested border between the neighbours, protests continued for a second day with hundreds of people including children shouting anti-India slogans.
In the Neelum Valley, which sits on the border and has seen heavy shelling between the two countries in recent weeks, there was a shutdown of shops and businesses in protest at India’s decision.
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