Wed, 21 Aug 2019

Pakistan Celebrates Independence Day Amid Tensions With India

Voice of America
14 Aug 2019, 22:05 GMT+10

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan warned Wednesday India's recent controversial actions in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir territory have endangered the regional peace.

Khan made the statement in connection with his country's Independence Day celebrations, more than a week after India unilaterally revoked the semi-autonomous status of its portion of the divided Himalayan region.

The Indian government also has deployed tens of thousands of additional troops and placed millions of Kashmiris under an unprecedented security lockdown to quell widespread violent reaction. Restrictions, however, have since reportedly been eased in parts of the region.

"Independence Day is an opportunity for great happiness, but today we are saddened by the plight of our Kashmiri brothers in occupied Jammu and Kashmir who are victims of Indian oppression," Khan said. "I assure my Kashmiri brothers that we stand with them," he vowed.

Khan traveled Wednesday to the Pakistani part of of the disputed region, known as Azad Kashmir, to express solidarity with Kashmiris living in the Indian-administered.area.

Islamabad, which controls a part of Kashmir and also claims the region in its entirety, has already expelled the Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, suspended all bilateral trade and public transport links in response to new Delhi's August 5 decision.

The ensuing developments have significantly escalated tensions between India and Pakistan, both armed with nuclear weapons and have twice gone to full scale wars over Kashmir.

On Tuesday, Pakistan asked the United Nations Security Council to meet over India's Kashmir-related steps, "in view of the dangerous implications." Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed Indians have raised border tensions in their bid to divert global attention from the Kashmir crackdown.

"Pakistan will not provoke a conflict. But India should not mistake our restraint for weakness," Qureshi wrote in a letter to the Security Council while calling for the urgent meeting. He insisted the move by India's Hindu nationalist-led government threatens global peace and could lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide in Kashmir.

"If India chooses to resort again to the use of force, Pakistan will be obliged to respond, in self defense, with all its capabilities," the foreign minister said.

Qureshi said a day before delivering the letter to members of the Security Council. China, which also holds a thinly populated high-altitude area of Kashmir, has promised to support the move and will "watch over our interest." A member of the world body is required to make a formal request for summoning the special session.

Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz of Poland, which is president of the Security Council for August, confirmed to reporters at the U.N. on Tuesday that the council has received a letter from Pakistan and "will discuss that issue and take a proper decision."

New Delhi's revocation of Kashmir's autonomy blocks the region's right to frame its own laws and allows non-residents from elsewhere in India to buy property there.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has defended his actions, saying it would bring prosperity to the region and discourage violence. As part of its Kashmir lockdown, Indian authorities have also detained hundreds of Kashmiri political leaders.

The security restrictions in India are expected to remain in place at least through Thursday when India celebrates its Independence Day.

The Pakistan government has vowed to observe India's Independence Day as a "Black Day", with flags on government buildings flown at half mast to protest against Indian actions in Kashmir.

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