ISLAMABAD/ SRINAGAR - Pakistan and its close ally China yesterday rejected the formal revocation of the constitutional autonomy of India-occupied Kashmir (IOK) and New Delhi’s splitting the disputed state into two federal territories in a bid to firm its grip over the territory.

Businesses were shut in the Muslim-majority area and the streets largely deserted in its main city Srinagar as new administrators sworn into office in the biggest restructuring of the 173 year-old former princely kingdom.

The Indian parliament dominated by right-wing Hindu members had in early August approved the legislation stripping Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status amid widespread public disenchantment and a harsh security lockdown that has been in place since then in the occupied state.

Pakistan, which claims the whole of Kashmir, has condemned the move and protesters took to the streets on its part of the territory - Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

Its ally China, which is locked in a separate decades-old dispute with India over the part of Kashmir called Ladakh, also slammed India for unilaterally changing its status.

“Changing of status quo in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir is in complete violation of the UN Security Council Resolutions and Bilateral Agreements between India and Pakistan, especially the Simla Agreement,” said a statement released by Pakistan’s foreign ministry.

The Indian occupied Kashmir, it said, was an internationally recognized disputed territory. “No step by the government of India can change this. These changes are illegal and void as per the relevant UNSC Resolutions, and do not prejudice the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir,” it added.

“Pakistan would continue to extend its full moral, political and diplomatic support to the suffering Kashmiri brothers and sisters until the realization of the inalienable right to self-determination, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions,” the statement said.

Angry protesters took to a main thoroughfare in Muzaffarabad, the main city of Azad Kahsimr, on Thursday to condemn the bifurcation of the Occupied Kashmir into two federal territories. “Down with India” and “We want freedom [for our brothers in IOK]”, they chanted.

Chinese response

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Kashmir was a dispute left from history that should be peacefully resolved.

“The Indian government officially announced the establishment of so called Jammu Kashmir territory and Ladakh Union territory which included some of China’s territory into its administrative jurisdiction. China deplores and firmly opposed that,” Geng said at a news briefing.

“India unilaterally changes its domestic law and administrative divisions, challenging China’s sovereignty and interests. This is awful and void, and this is not effective in any way and will not change the fact that the area is under China’s actual control.”

India and China fought a war in 1962 and since then have been unable to resolve their border dispute.

The spokesperson urged the Indian side to earnestly respect the Chinese territorial sovereignty, abide by bilateral treaties and uphold peace and tranquillity in the border areas and create favourable conditions for the proper settlement of boundary questions.

On his government’s stance on Kashmir, he said, “China’s position on the Kashmir issue is consistent and clear. This is a dispute left from history and it should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the United Nations charter, the relevant UNSC resolutions and other bilateral treaties.

He said the relevant side should resolve the dispute through dialogue and consultations and uphold regional peace and stability.

 

Chinese support to Pakistan on FATF issue

To a question Geng Shuang said that the Chinese side was opposed to blacklist Pakistan by FATF. He said that the aim of FATF is to better help all countries fight the illegal activities of money laundering and terrorist financing or the abuse of international financial system, adding “It’s aim is not to sanction or punish any country.”

China, he said, supported Pakistan improving its domestic anti-terrorist financing system, adding, “We will work with all parties of FATF to provide constructive support and assistance to Pakistan.”

 

 

Indian reaction

India’s foreign ministry spokesman rejected China’s comments and said Kashmir was an integral part of the country and that any reorganisation of the state was an internal affair.

“We do not expect other countries, including China, to comment on the matters which are internal to India, just as India refrains from commenting on internal issues of other countries,” Raveesh Kumar told a news conference.

 

 

More from Foreign Office

The Pakistan foreign ministry statement said Islamabad would particularly underline that the measures announced by India on August 5, 2019 were forced upon the people of Occupied Kashmir through the barrel of gun by turning the region into a prison by over 900,000 Indian security forces, it said.

Political leaders, civil society members, and common people including women and young children remain under illegal detention. An iron curtain remains in place on more than 8 million Kashmiri people snapping their communications with the outside world, the statement said.

Curfew remains imposed and movement of people restricted. Many people, especially women and children, are being continuously abused and tortured by Indian occupation forces, it said.

 

 

The illegal and unilateral changes effected by India are in no way an “internal matter” as the Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains on the agenda of the Security Council.

Narendra Modi says the new arrangement will benefit Kashmiris by opening up the area for investment and integrating it into the Indian mainstream. He also says the special privileges Kashmir enjoyed for decades, such as property rights and government jobs only for locals, had hindered its development and fuelled separatism.

Contrary to the false projection by the Indian authorities, the purpose of these illegal changes in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir is neither development of the region nor welfare of the Kashmiri people, the Foreign Office statement said.

The real motive is to alter the demographic structure of the Muslim majority state in pursuance of the extremist “Hindutva” ideology. The international community must take notice that transfer of civilian population from outside into IOJ&K is in grave violation of the international laws particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention, it said.

The people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir will never accept the illegal and forceful occupation. The illegal unilateral actions taken by India would only further aggravate the human rights situation in the IOJ&K and threaten to destabilize the peace, security and stability of the South Asian region as well as the world, the statement said.

India should stop brutalizing the innocent Kashmiris who are suffering under its illegal occupation for the last seven decades.

India should immediately withdraw its military forces from the region, remove draconian laws, restore basic human rights of the people, free all detainees, lift all restrictions on the free movement and communications, allow unimpeded and full access to the UN and other international human rights observers, including independent foreign media.

It is imperative that India implements the UN Security Council Resolutions on the right of Kashmiris to self-determination, without further prevarication, it said.

Infringement of Kashmir’s identity

Occupying authorities had eased some restrictions in recent weeks in Kashmir, but tens of thousands of police and paramilitary soldiers fanned out on Thursday across the occupied valley, patrolling streets and manning checkpoints, as the new legislation went into effect Wednesday midnight.

GC Murmu, a new civilian administrator appointed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government with the title of lieutenant governor, assumed office on Thursday. The region previously was headed by a governor.

Indian authorities also changed the name of the state-run radio station Radio Kashmir Srinagar to All India Radio Srinagar. The radio started broadcasting even before India gained independence from British colonialists in 1947. Srinagar is the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The most visible change is the absence of Kashmir’s own flag and constitution, which were eliminated as part of the region’s new status. But the most contentious point for many people is the threat of land grabs by Indians outside the region with the formal abrogation of a clause in the Indian Constitution that safeguarded Kashmiris’ exclusive right to land ownership.

“Everything changes on Thursday. From a state, we are reduced to a municipality,” said a retired Kashmiri judge, Hasnain Masoodi, a member of India’s Parliament. “The entire exercise is unconstitutional. The mode and methodology have been undemocratic. People were humiliated and never consulted.”

Masoodi represents the National Conference, a powerful pro-India Kashmiri political group whose leaders have been detained.