In further deterioration of relations between India and Pakistan, on August 7th, after a National Security Committee, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan announced several movements that downgrade diplomatic ties between the countries.
The meeting was attended by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Hayat, Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa, Naval Chief Admiral Zafar Mehmood Abbasi, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, ISI Director-General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed and other officials.
Notably, Pakistan announced that it would call its high commissioner back from India and expel the Indian envoy to Pakistan. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood confirmed the news to local media.
“We will call back our ambassador from Delhi and send back their” envoy, foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced in televised comments.
Furthermore, Pakistan announced that it would suspend all trade to India. India said it would continue its suspension of trade which has been in effect since the February 14th Pulwama attack.
In brief, the Pakistan statement said the following actions would be undertaken after the National Security Committee on August 7th:
- Downgrade diplomatic relations with India.
- Suspend bilateral trade with India.
- Review bilateral arrangements.
- Take the matter to the United Nations, including the Security Council.
- Announced that the Pakistani Independence Day (August 14th) will be “observed in solidarity with brave Kashmiris and their just struggle for their right of self-determination”. It also announced that August 15th will be observed as Black Day.
Former Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid commented on the development, saying that Pakistan’s decision will not impact India. “No impact of Pakistan decision on India. It is a short-sighted decision, which is going to affect them badly, not us,” he said.
New Delhi’s reaction to Pakistan’s decision to downgrade relations expressed a sort of regret, but mostly condemnation and criticism.
“We have seen reports that Pakistan has decided to take certain unilateral actions in respect to its bilateral relations with India. This includes the downgrading of our diplomatic relations. The intention behind these measures is obviously to present an alarming picture to the world of our bilateral ties. The reasons cited by Pakistan are not supported by facts on the ground.”
In addition, Pakistan announced that it closed three air routes (out of nine) for Indian carriers.
“The major route which we use for our long-haul flights are still open and hence the impact is not much right now but we have got initial inputs that the remaining air routes will be shut.
“The impact will be huge as flying time for our ultra-long-haul flights using Pakistani airspace would increase by 2-3 hours,” a senior Air India official told IANS.
India’s response was somewhat mild, simply saying that it “regretted” Pakistan’s actions.
It urged Pakistan to review them so that normal channels for diplomatic communications are preserved.
“The recent developments pertaining to Article 370 are entirely the internal affair of India. The Constitution of India was, is and will always be a sovereign matter. Seeking to interfere in that jurisdiction by invoking an alarmist vision of the region will never succeed,” a government statement said.
It further attempted to shift part of the blame on Pakistan, for “utilizing sentiment to carry out cross-border terrorism.”
“It is not surprising that such developmental initiatives that could address any disaffection in Jammu and Kashmir should be negatively perceived in Pakistan, which has utilized such sentiments to justify its cross-border terrorism,” New Delhi said.
Finally, the Indian government said that it had carefully considered the action, and wanted to take it at a moment when it would be most amicable.
“Recent decisions by the Government and Parliament of India are driven by a commitment to extend to Jammu and Kashmir opportunities for development that were earlier denied by a temporary provision in the Constitution. Its impact would also result in the removal of gender and socio-economic discrimination. It is also expected to result in an upswing of economic activity and improvement in the livelihood prospects of all people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Regardless, a sort of witch hunt appears to be taking place in Kashmir and Jammu.
Security agencies have arrested over 100 people, including political leaders and activists, as they were considered a threat to peace and tranquility in the Kashmir valley, officials said on Wednesday.
“Over 100 political leaders and activists have been arrested in the Valley so far,” an anonymous senior official of the Jammu and Kashmir administration was quoted as saying. No details were provided, so it may simply be a rumor, but there have been other reports of officials being arrested.
Malaysia pitched in the issue, with a statement from Prime Minister Manathir bin Mohammad, after receiving a phone call from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. The Malaysian PM called for India to respect the relevant UNSC resolutions, and called on all stakeholders to maintain international peace and stability.
The US urged Pakistan to refrain from any retaliatory aggression against India over the latter’s action on Jammu and Kashmir. Two Democratic Senators urged Pakistan to refrain from any “retaliatory aggression” against India and take “demonstrable action” against terrorist groups within its territory. Senator Robert Menendez and Congressman Eliot Engel in a joint statement on August 7th also expressed concern over the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir.
“As the world’s largest democracy, India has an opportunity to demonstrate for all its citizens the importance of protecting and promoting equal rights, including freedom of assembly, access to information, and equal protections under the law. Transparency and political participation are the cornerstones of representative democracies, and we hope the Indian government will abide by these principles in Jammu and Kashmir. And at the same time Pakistan must refrain from any retaliatory aggression—including support for infiltrations across the Line of Control—and take demonstrable action against the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistan’s soil,” the statement read.
Currently, the escalation is happening in real time, there appears to be no threat of armed conflict, but Pakistan appears to be on a war path with all of its actions. This does not, however, mean that India is not preparing retaliatory actions, which simply have not yet been announced.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- On the Brink of War? Pakistani Army Vows To Support ‘Kashmir Population’ Against India
- India Revokes Jammu And Kashmir’s Special Status, Puts Army On High Alert