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Pakistan Cuts Last Public Transport Link With India Over Kashmir Dispute

11 Aug 2019 Gandhara - RFE/RL

Pakistan says it has cut the last remaining public transport link with India -- a bus line linking Lahore with New Delhi -- as its anger mounts over a dispute with its nuclear rival over the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Arshad Ali, tourism officer at Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, on August 10 told Reuters the government had issued directives to suspend the bus line, which departs Lahore six mornings a week.

Islamabad has expressed anger and vowed to take the issue to the UN Security Council after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government announced on August 5 it was revoking Kashmir’s special constitutional status and downgrading its statehood.

In 1957, Kashmir was formally incorporated into the Indian Union, but it was given special status under Article 370 of India's constitution. The article, now revoked by Modi, ensured, among other things, that non-Kashmiri Indians could not buy property there.

Pakistan said Modi’s actions were in breach of international law and violated a UN pledge to eventually hold a plebiscite to determine the future status of the region, which it still deems as “disputed” between the two countries.

Islamabad said it would "exercise all possible options" to counter Delhi's move, but promised to seek diplomatic, not military means, to resolve the issue.

Pakistan has already cut two rail links, suspended bilateral trade, and expelled India's top envoy, all part of what it called a diplomatic effort to protest against the decision.

India’s decision was accompanied by a telecoms blackout in Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state, restrictions on public movement, and the deployment of thousands of troops.

Modi said in an August 8 nationally televised address that the action would allow New Delhi to rid the region of “terrorism and separatism.”

Kashmir is divided between Pakistan and India but is claimed in full by the two nuclear-armed powers, which have fought two wars over the region since partition in 1947.

Tens of thousands of people have died in a three decade-old insurgency on the Indian side of Kashmir.

Despite the tensions of the past few days, India on August 10 eased travel restrictions in parts of Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, and crowds took to the streets to buy goods ahead of the August 11 Muslim festival of Eid-al-Adha, one of the most important festivals in the Islamic calendar.

Meanwhile, Modi's move also faces some opposition in India and in Kashmir itself. Indian opposition Rahul Gandhi on August 10 demanded a statement from Modi on the situation in Kashmir, saying there are reports of violence and of people dying.

Gandhi told reporters that "things are going very wrong there."

Opposition leaders have claimed Modi is using the crisis to solidify his hold on political power, and some Indian and Kashmiri politicians have indicated they could challenge Modi's actions in India's Supreme Court.

The raised tensions between Islamabad and Delhi are being watched with concern around the globe, as fears of an armed conflict have risen again.

The United States on August 9 said there has been no change in its policy on Kashmir. Washington regards it as a territory disputed between India and Pakistan.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus described Kashmir as "certainly an incredibly important issue" that the United States continued to "follow closely."

According to Reuters reports, Russia on August 10 said the Kashmir administrative changes were carried out within India's constitutional framework and it called on India and Pakistan to "not allow any aggravation in the regional situation."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and The Telegraph

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