Pakistan Downgrades Ties With India as Tensions Rise Over Kashmir
By Ayaz Gul August 7, 2019
Pakistan says it is expelling India's high commissioner to Islamabad, just hours after downgrading diplomatic and trade ties with New Dehli for stripping the disputed Kashmir region of its special status, as bilateral relations continue to deteriorate.
The foreign ministry said in a brief announcement the Indian government has also been informed that Pakistan will not be sending its High Commissioner-designate to India.
Earlier, an official announcement said that an emergency meeting of the National Security Committee, which includes top Pakistani civilian and military leaders, had decided to lower diplomatic and trade ties with India among other steps in response to the "unilateral and illegal actions" by the Indian government.
It said without elaborating that Pakistan will review other bilateral arrangements with India and take the Kashmir matter to the United Nations, including the Security Council.
"[The] Prime Minister directed armed forces to continue vigilance," the announcement noted, citing the situation on the military line of control separating Pakistani and Indian portions of Kashmir.
New Delhi added a special provision to its constitution in 1949 giving autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, allowing the region to have its own constitution, a separate flag and independence over all matters except foreign affairs, defense and communications. India's Hindu nationalist-led government scrapped the constitutional provision Monday.
On Tuesday, the Indian parliament passed a bill giving its approval to the move, including splitting its part of the divided Himalayan state both New Delhi and Islamabad claim in its entirety.
Hours later, the Pakistani parliament passed a resolution condemning India's measures to alter the status of the divided region and demanding New Delhi lift its wide-ranging security lockdown imposed on Kashmir since Monday.
The Indian security action to prevent a possible backlash, particularly from insurgents fighting New Delhi's rule in Kashmir, has plunged the region into a communications blackout and a virtual shutdown.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told the emergency joint session of the parliament on Tuesday that the Indian action to "annex" Kashmir would intensify the insurgency in the majority-Muslim Kashmir, and the ensuing tensions could trigger another war between India and Pakistan, both armed with nuclear weapons.
The Pakistani leader warned the conflict could eventually lead to an exchange of nuclear weapons, urging the international community to intervene and press India to reverse its controversial decisions and resolve the Kashmir dispute through negotiations.
Islamabad rejects New Delhi's allegations the Pakistani military is behind separatist groups in Kashmir.
"The next time there is a major attack on Indian forces in Kashmir, the next India-Pakistan crisis will be upon us. And it could get ugly," cautioned Michael Kugelman, a Washington-based expert on South Asia affairs.
In a significant clarification issued Wednesday, a senior U.S. State Department official rejected Indian media reports New Delhi had informed Washington ahead of its Kashmir-related moves.
"Contrary to press reporting, the Indian government did not consult or inform the US Government before moving to revoke Jammu and Kashmir's special constitutional status," tweeted Alice Wells, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of South and Central Asian affairs.
Wells is currently in Islamabad for official talks with Pakistani leaders on bilateral matters.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said Monday, the administration was "closely" following developments in Kashmir. "We are concerned about reports of detentions and urge respect for individual rights and discussion with those in affected communities, said Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
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