Pakistan’s government decided on Wednesday to seek support from the United Nations for pressuring India into restoring autonomy among Indian-administered portions of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir.
Officials said after a meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Committee led by Prime Minister Imran Khan that the government would appeal to the U.N. Security Council and International Court of Justice.
They also said they would downgrade Pakistan’s diplomatic relations and suspend trade with India, bringing the two nuclear-armed neighbors closer to renewed war over the Himalayan region both countries claim. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also told parliament that the Indian ambassador would be expelled.
Pakistan, whose population is nearly all Muslim, was hitting back at India’s decision to remove the Jammu and Kashmir region’s autonomy and to tighten its control over India’s only state with a Muslim-majority. The region lost many of its rights to self-determination and to fly its own flag.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced he was doing away with parts of India’s Constitution that govern its relationship with Kashmir and splitting Jammu and Kashmir into two territories.
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 Kashmir.
Pakistan wants residents of the Indian-controlled portion of Jammu and Kashmir to have a vote on whether to remain or cut ties with Hindu-majority India. Most in the heavily armed region oppose Indian rule, and militant groups there have been fighting for its independence for three decades.
The fighting in the region 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 been meeting 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 deeply concerned about rising tensions in the region, and he urged all parties “to exercise restraint.” His spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters the U.N. Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan had “observed and reported an increase in military activity along the “Line of Control,” which is the militarized border dividing the region between the two countries.
"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.