Islamabad, Pakistan – 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”.
India’s Home Minister Amit Shah told parliament on Monday that the president signed a decree abolishing Article 370 of the constitution that gave special autonomy to the Muslim-majority Himalayan region.
“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.”
On Sunday, 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.
Khan was speaking at a meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Committee in the capital Islamabad on Sunday, following an escalating crackdown in Indian-administered Kashmir that has seen the deployment of thousands of troops, parts of the territory completely locked down, political leaders arrested and telecommunications cut off.
“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.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the disputed northern territory of Kashmir, which both claim in full but administer separate portions of since gaining independence from the British in 1947.
In addition to Khan, the meeting in Islamabad was attended by Pakistan’s top civilian leadership, including foreign minister and defence minister, as well as the country’s powerful military and intelligence chiefs.
“Pakistan remains ready to defend itself against any Indian misadventure or aggression and will continue to provide all out diplomatic, moral and political support to the brave people of [Indian-administered Kashmir] in their indigenous struggle to get justice and their right to self-determination in line with [United Nations Security Council] resolutions.”
In February this year, the two countries came close to all-out war over Kashmir, after India launched airstrikes on Pakistani territory in retaliation against an attack in Indian-administered Kashmir by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad group.
Pakistan denied any involvement in the attack, and retaliated to the military action with airstrikes of its own, hitting uninhabited areas of India-administered Kashmir. Those strikes prompted an aerial dogfight that saw at least one Indian fighter jet shot down and its pilot captured.
Tensions de-escalated to a degree after Pakistan returned the Indian pilot unharmed two days later.
At the National Security Committee meeting, Pakistani leaders warned that they were concerned India may launch a “false flag operation” to implicate Pakistan-based armed groups and justify military action against Pakistan.
It also noted that the escalation in Kashmir was coming at a time “when Pakistan and the international community are focused on resolving the Afghan conflict”.
Pakistan has been playing a role in arranging peace talks between the United States and Afghan Taliban, an ongoing process to end the 18-year war in Pakistan’s northwestern neighbour.
During a visit by Pakistani PM Khan to Washington DC last month, US President Donald Trump offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, an offer that Pakistan welcomed and India rejected.
Earlier on Sunday, Khan called on India to allow the mediation to take place.
“President Trump offered to mediate on Kashmir. This is the time to do so as situation deteriorates there and along the [Line of Control] with new aggressive actions being taken by Indian occupation forces,” said Khan. “This has the potential to blow up into a regional crisis.”
Since the escalation of Indian security forces operations in Kashmir last week, Pakistan has been lobbying at international forums such as the United Nations and Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) against the crackdown.
On Saturday, it condemned the alleged use of “cluster munitions” by Indian security forces in firing across the Line of Control, the de facto border between India-administered and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and said at least six civilians had been killed and 48 wounded in Indian firing since July 19.
India accuses Pakistan of frequently violating a 2003 ceasefire along the LoC, killing civilians in India-administered Kashmir, as well as of supporting armed groups that are fighting Indian security forces.
“Pakistan army regularly attempts to push terrorists through infiltration and opens up with multitude of weapons to assist them,” Indian army was cited as saying by local media.
“India, during numerous Directorate of Military Operations-level talks, has maintained the right to respond. Such responses are only against military targets and infiltrating terrorists who are aided by Pakistan Army. Allegations of firing of cluster bombs by India is yet another Pakistan’s lie and deception.” the Indian army statement added.
On Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Office denied Indian claims that Pakistan has launched action across the LoC to target Indian security forces.
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