Delhi eases some restrictions in Kashmir

Delhi eases some restrictions in Kashmir

Some telephone service available, schools to reopen Monday as UN seeks solutions

Kashmiri women shout slogans at a protest after Friday prayers in Srinagar about the restrictions imposed on the area by the Indian government. (Reuters Photo)
Kashmiri women shout slogans at a protest after Friday prayers in Srinagar about the restrictions imposed on the area by the Indian government. (Reuters Photo)

NEW DELHI: India is starting to ease restrictions on Kashmir after an almost two-week lockdown, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported, as some telecommunication services were restored and people could move more freely.

Landline and low-speed mobile phone services resumed in some areas in the Kashmir Valley on Saturday, even as stringent security arrangements remained in place, PTI reported, citing officials it did not identify. Primary schools will reopen on Monday and government offices will also be fully functional from then, a government spokesman told PTI.

The lifting of some curbs came a day after a rare closed-door United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in Kashmir that failed to produce concrete action. China’s ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, blamed India for stoking tensions with Pakistan and called on both sides to exercise restraint.

India said on Saturday that one of its soldiers died in cross-border fire with Pakistan at the Jammu & Kashmir border.

The Security Council met on Friday to discuss Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to scrap autonomy for Kashmir, though the body was divided on how to proceed, with the US and France blocking a Chinese attempt to get the 15-member body to publicly urge parties to refrain from actions that exacerbate tensions along the line of control, diplomats said.

“It’s obvious that the constitutional amendment by India has changed the status quo in Kashmir, causing tensions in the region,” Zhang told reporters after the closed-door meeting. “China is deeply concerned about the current situation and opposes any unilateral action that complicates the situation and we call upon the relevant parties to exercise restraint.”

China is a historic ally of Pakistan. Underscoring rising tensions between nuclear powers India and Pakistan over Kashmir, it was the first full Security Council meeting to discuss the disputed region since 1965.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan welcomed the UN Security Council’s meeting to discuss the situation.

“There are 11 UNSC resolutions reiterating the Kashmiris right to self determination and the UNSC meeting was a reaffirmation of these resolutions,” Khan said in two Twitter posts. “Therefore addressing the suffering of the Kashmiri people and ensuring resolution of the dispute is the responsibility of this world body.”

One Western diplomat, who asked not to be identified, said that even though no decision was reached, holding the meeting helped calm tensions because it showed Pakistan that the international community is engaged.

India has called the Kashmir decision an internal matter with no bearing on its international borders with Pakistan and China. Yet Beijing issued a strongly worded statement last week questioning the impact on the mainly Buddhist region of Ladakh — an area of strategic importance nestled between Tibet and Pakistan.

Friday’s discussion came after Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi urged the Council earlier this week to hold an urgent meeting, arguing that India’s moves pose “a threat to international peace and security, willfully undermine the internationally recognised disputed status of Jammu & Kashmir”, and violate the human rights of the Kashmiri people.

India says its decision to convert Jammu and Kashmir into two federally administered regions would usher in prosperity for the region where as many as 42,000 people, including civilians, army, police and militants, have died in violence in the last three decades.

“The recent decisions taken by the government of India are intended to ensure that good governance is promoted and social economic development is enhanced,” said Syed Akbaruddin, India’s ambassador the the UN.

“We are saddened that terrorism is being fueled while language and incendiary talk of Jihad are being mentioned by people who should know better.”

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