Pakistan downgrades ties with India as Kashmir row deepens

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan downgraded its diplomatic ties with nuclear-armed rival India yesterday, announcing that it will expel the Indian envoy and suspend trade in a deepening row over New Delhi’s move to tighten its grip on disputed Kashmir.

New Delhi stripped the Himalayan region of its seven-decade-long semi-autonomous status on Monday through a contentious presidential decree, just hours after it imposed a crippling curfew on the valley.

Experts have predicted the move will trigger conflict with Pakistan, which has a competing claim to the valley, and reignite an insurgency that has already cost tens of thousands of lives.

Delhi has insisted that the move is an internal matter.

But Islamabad has called for the international community to intervene and vowed to take the matter to the United Nations Security Council.

Students of Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, a wing of religious political party Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami participate in a protest in Peshawar. – AFP

“We will call back our ambassador from Delhi and send back their” envoy, foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced in televised comments yesterday.

He spoke as the government released a statement declaring that Pakistan will suspend trade with India and review its bilateral ties with Delhi.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan today chaired meeting of the National Security Committee” to discuss the “unilateral and illegal actions by the Indian government” in Kashmir, the statement said.

“The Committee decided to take following actions: – 1. Downgrading of diplomatic relations with India. 2. Suspension of bilateral trade with India. 3. Review of bilateral arrangements. 4. Matter to be taken to the United Nations, including the Security Council,” it continued.

Khan also called on the military to continue its “vigilance”.

Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India since independence in 1947.

They have contesting claims on the Himalayan region, and have fought two of their three wars over it.

Earlier this year they came to the brink of war once more, after a deadly attack in Indian-held Kashmir was claimed by a militant group based in Pakistan, prompting tit-for-tat airstrikes over the mountainous region.

The Pakistani military said on Tuesday that it “firmly stands” with Kashmiris.