Pakistan’s government said on Wednesday that it would review all bilateral arrangements with India and file a formal protest with the U.N. Security Council aimed at pressuring its neighbor into restoring the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region’s semiautonomous status.
The decision from the government’s national security council, after a meeting with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, accompanied a move to downgrade diplomatic ties and suspend trade with arch-rival India.
Pakistan’s moves represent a furious reaction to Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s decree on Monday, issued on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that revoked the protected political status that Jammu and Kashmir held for six decades under the Indian constitution.
The provision had permitted India’s only Muslim-majority states to make its own laws and to fly its own flag. Insurgents have contested Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. Hindu nationalist Modi’s election in 2014 and a deadly terrorist attack on Indian security personnel in February inflamed India’s tensions with Pakistan, whose population is nearly all Muslim.
Pakistani officials said after a national security committee meeting led by Khan that the government would protest India’s actions at the 15-nation U.N. Security Council in New York and International Court of Justice, the U.N.’s main judicial body, in The Hague, Netherlands.
They high-stakes confrontation brings the two nuclear-armed nations closer to renewed war over the Himalayan region claimed by both countries and divided by a militarized Line of Control. Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, told his parliament that India’s ambassador to Pakistan would be expelled.
The region was independent when British colonizers departed. It became part of India in wartime, when Pakistan tried to take control of it in 1947. Since gaining their independence from the British 72 years ago, Pakistan and India have already fought each other in three wars, including two for control of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan wants residents there to vote on whether to remain or cut ties with India. Most in the heavily armed region oppose Indian rule. The fighting reaches high up into the Karakoram, the mountain range where, for more than a half-century, the two nations’ armies with at least a half-million troops combined have met on the highest battleground in the world, the Siachen Glacier, at an elevation of 5,400 meters or more.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said he was concerned about the rising tensions and urged everyone “to exercise restraint.” His spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters the U.N. Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan has “observed and reported an increase in military activity” along the Line of Control.
"We are deeply concerned that the latest restrictions in Indian-Administered Kashmir will exacerbate the human rights situation in the region" — @UNHumanRights spokesperson
— United Nations (@UN) August 7, 2019
Human rights worries
Ahead of its decision, India’s government dispatched thousands of additional troops and shut off the internet and most telecommunications with Jammu and Kashmir.
“What we are witnessing now in Indian-administered Kashmir takes what was already a bit of a pattern there to a new level,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Colville cited a report from his office in July documenting how authorities in the Indian-administered region repeatedly blocked telecommunications networks to muzzle dissent, used arbitrary detention to punish political dissidents and employed excessive force while dealing with protests leading to extrajudicial killings and serious injuries.
“So we’re deeply concerned that the latest restrictions in Indian-administered Kashmir will exacerbate the human rights situation in the region,” he said. “These restrictions will prevent the people of Indian-administered Kashmir and their elected representatives from participating fully in democratic debate about the future status of Jammu and Kashmir.”
In June 2018, OHCHR’s first report on the disputed region pinned blame for violence on both India and Pakistan and called for independent experts to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. It said in its report that both sides had gotten away with chronic impunity while killing or ruining many lives.