Monday 26 August 2019

Pakistan anger as India ends special status for Kashmir

Reaction: Activists protest against the presidential decree abolishing the special autonomy to Kashmir, in New Delhi. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Reaction: Activists protest against the presidential decree abolishing the special autonomy to Kashmir, in New Delhi. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Aditya Kalra

India has revoked the special status of Kashmir, the Himalayan region that has long been a flashpoint in its relationship 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 militarised regions in nearly seven decades, India said it would scrap a constitutional provision which 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 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 will 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.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, convulsed by a 30-year armed revolt in which tens of thousands have died, with hundreds of thousands of Indian troops deployed. India blames that rebellion on Pakistan, which denies it, saying 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. There was heavy deployment of security forces across the city, but no signs of protest. A government source said restrictions were precautionary, adding life was expected to return to normal soon.

Irish Independent

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