07 December 2019   9. Rabi-us-Thaani 1441
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Thursday, 08 August 2019 13:53

Crisis in Kashmir

Kashmir in lockdown as India reveals plan to change state's status

Indian-controlled Kashmir was in lockdown Monday, with tens of thousands of new troops deployed as a number of prominent politicians were placed under house arrest and New Delhi announced contentious changes to the way the territory is administered.

A broad communications blackout left many people without access to the internet and phone services across the territory, with measures also in place to prevent public meetings.

Kashmir is one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints. Claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, it has been the epicentre for more than 70 years of an often violent territorial struggle between the nuclear-armed neighbours. A de facto border called the Line of Control divides it between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Extra troops have been moving up to Indian-controlled Kashmir in recent days and Indian authorities explained the move as a response to intelligence about a growing security threat in the region.

The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was moving to revoke a provision known as Article 370. In place since 1949, it gives Jammu and Kashmir the power to have its own constitution, flag and autonomy over all matters, save for certain policy areas such as a foreign affairs and defence.

The Modi government said it would introduce measures to modify Jammu and Kashmir's administrative status from a state to a union territory allowing New Delhi to have more of a say in the affairs of the territory.

The remote mountainous region of Ladakh, currently part of Jammu and Kashmir, will also be separated and turned into a standalone union territory, the government said.

Modi's interior minister, Amit Shah, announced the measures in parliament, prompting an uproar from opposition parties.

While anticipating opposition in the region, analysts said the security crackdown would -- for now -- restrict the ability of ordinary Kashmiris to react.

"They've put the state under a heavy security lock down and will shoot at sight anyone who tries to come out on the street," said Ajai Shukla, a New Delhi-based defence analyst and former military officer.

Manoj Joshi, from the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think tank, said the announcement would come as a "psychological shock" to Kashmiris.

"It's a dramatic step with huge political risks. But on the other hand, the BJP as a party has never denied that it wants Article 370 to be abrogated."

Ahead of Monday's announcements, the mood in Kashmir was already tense, as residents rushed to secure essential supplies.

Pakistan terms India's Kashmir move 'irresponsible, irrational'

The government of Pakistan has hit back at India's decision to scrap a special status for India-administered Kashmir, saying Islamabad will "exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps".

"Pakistan strongly condemns and rejects the announcements made today by the Indian Government regarding the Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir," said a Pakistan foreign office statement on Monday.

"The Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir is an internationally recognized disputed territory. No unilateral step by the Government of India can change this disputed status, as enshrined in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Nor will this ever be acceptable to the people of Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistan.”

"As the party to this international dispute, Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps."

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the "irresponsible, unilateral and irrational behaviour" by India in the disputed Kashmir territory, with the country's top civilian and military leaderships warning New Delhi's crackdown was destabilising the region.

"PM [Khan] invited attention of world leaders and international bodies towards irresponsible, unilateral and irrational behaviour of Indian leadership," said a Pakistani government statement.

"The recent Indian measures will increase the levels of violence and turn this area into a flashpoint and a destabilising factor in the midst of two strategically capable neighbouring countries," it said.

Darul Ihsan Media Desk

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