Pakistan has decided to downgrade diplomatic ties with India and suspend bilateral trade in response to New Delhi’s decision to reduce the special status of Kashmir, a Himalayan region claimed by both countries.
The decision was made at a meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Committee led by prime minister Imran Khan and attended by the heads of the armed forces and senior government officials.
The government said in a statement that Pakistan will also review other aspects of relations with India.
It also decided to ask the United Nations, including the Security Council, to pressure India to reverse its decision to strip statehood and other rights from the portion of Kashmir it administers.
Amid a complete security lockdown in Kashmir, hundreds of poor migrant workers have begun fleeing to return to their villages in northern and eastern India.
Some complained that Kashmiri employers did not pay them any salary as security forces began imposing tight travel restrictions over the weekend and asked them to leave their jobs.
Authorities in Hindu-majority India clamped a complete shutdown on Kashmir as they scrapped the Muslim-majority state’s special status, including exclusive hereditary rights and a separate constitution, and divided it into two territories.
The Kashmir region is divided between India and Pakistan and is claimed by both. The two nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir, since they won independence from British colonialists in 1947.
On Wednesday, workers crowded the railway station at Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, as they waited for trains to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.
They carried their belongings on their heads and under their arms, tied in bedsheets.
Jagdish Mathur, a worker, said many people walked for miles on a highway and hitched rides on army trucks and buses from Srinagar to Jammu, a distance of 160 miles.
“We haven’t eaten properly for the past four days,” he said, adding that he does not have money to buy a rail ticket to take him to his village in eastern Bihar state. “The government should help me.”
Every year, tens of thousands of people travel to Kashmir from various Indian states looking for work, mainly masonry, carpentry and agriculture. Whenever the security situation deteriorates, they return home.
Insurgent groups have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, which Pakistan denies.
- Press Association