Indian PM defends ‘historic’ action in Kashmir

By Alex Crawford, special correspondent, in Islamabad

The Indian prime minister has given his justification for ditching Kashmir’s special status in a stirring address on national TV and online.
Incorporating a message of hope, aspiration, political and social growth, Narendra Modi said he had made an “historic” decision that would benefit the people of the disputed Himalayan territory.

It would benefit the whole of India, he added, before suggesting the territory would also enjoy a spike in tourism and economic growth as a result.

Image: Mr Modi says Kashmir could experience a spike in tourism and an economic boost
The shock announcement from India on Monday has redrawn the map of the largely autonomous Kashmir, dividing it into two union territories, and imposing rule from the central government in New Delhi.
The special status enshrined in Article 370 of India’s constitution has, until now, allowed the state of Jammu and Kashmir to make many of its own laws – and, importantly, it has prevented anyone but ‘pandits’ (as Kashmiris are known) from purchasing land there.

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Despite this significant level of autonomy, the Indian-administered region would still answer to New Delhi on matters of defence, communications and foreign affairs.

Mr Modi insists his actions have liberated Kashmir from terrorism, and that Article 370 has delivered few benefits.

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Instead, he claims the status only held Kashmiris back by depriving them of rights applicable to the rest of India – such as the minimum wage.
:: Train service linking India and Pakistan suspended over Kashmir tensions

Image: Soldiers patrol the streets of Srinagar, the largest city in Indian-administered Kashmir
Just hours after Indian troops rounded up hundreds of Kashmiris in mass arrests, the prime minister appeared on national television insisting his current military stronghold of the region would only be temporary.
He then promised future elections where the people of Kashmir could choose their own leaders.
The opportunities he discussed in the address will be hard to imagine for those enduring a rolling curfew and army lockdown in the area, which has shuttered businesses and shops, and cut internet and phone lines, with little communication outside.
Hundreds have also been scrambling to get out of Kashmir for fear of violence there.

Image: Motorists were questioned in Jammu after authorities placed parts of the region on lockdown
Meanwhile, there are still angry demonstrations held daily in a number of Pakistani cities.
Many Pakistanis and Kashmiris view the revoking of the Indian-controlled side’s special status as a declaration of war.
This was certainly the assessment of the Kashmiri president on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control, which is the militarised border splitting Pakistan-administered Kashmir from the Indian-controlled territory.
In his first interview with a foreign channel since the crisis blew up, Sardar Masood Khan told Sky News that world leaders could not afford to turn away from what is happening.
He said: “If bombs are used here, either tactically or strategically, there would be a nuclear Armageddon and nuclear winter all around the world – and that won’t affect only south Asia.
“It would affect the entire globe.”
He then expressed extreme disappointment at the muted response to India’s actions from the United Nations in particular.
As a former UN representative for Pakistan, he urged the international body to take a firm stand against what he labelled as India’s aggressive decision.
Other Pakistani ministers have told us they fear the only outcome will be war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours – unless India steps back.
Both India and Pakistan lay claim to the entirety of the Muslim-majority region and have already fought two wars over the it.
Earlier this week, Pakistan downgraded its diplomatic relations with India in response, expelling the top Indian diplomat in the country, and suspending bilateral trade.

Source : Sky News