Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has pledged his country will not explore military options to deal with India’s decision to strip its portion of the Kashmir region of the special autonomy it has held since 1949. This statement has eased concerns of a possible military conflict breaking out between the two South Asian rivals as a result of the current situation in the Kashmir region. Pakistan, according to Qureshi, will rely on political, diplomatic, and economic measures to deal with the situation.
Pakistan’s actions over the past thirty-six hours have mirrored that pledge. The Pakistani government has downgraded diplomatic relations. Islamabad expelled the Indian High Commissioner, and recalled its own envoy from New Delhi. Trade ties with India have also been suspended. Even though this move is symbolic, it will hurt Pakistan’s economy more than India’s.
These moves have certainly matched the rhetoric coming out of Islamabad since Monday. Aside from the latest statement by the foreign minister, most Pakistani politicians have taken a more bellicose tone when speaking on events in Kashmir. The Minister of Human Rights has claimed India’s status change of Kashmir violates the Geneva Convention, which considers any change in a held area’s demographic composition to be a war crime.
There has been little independently corroborated information coming out of Jammu and Kashmir. The region is effectively on lockdown and a communications blackout is in place. Internet access is blocked, and a curfew imposed. Newspapers in cities across the two states are not being published. For the outside world, news is restricted mainly to government statements or reports by pro-Indian government media outlets. Travel restrictions are also affecting daily life in J&K considerably. The Indian government’s attempts last week to clear the region of tourists and foreigners was largely successful. Many nations around the world are presently advising their citizens not to travel to Kashmir until the situation there stabilizes.
For now it appears that India’s move to place Jammu and Kashmir under the full control of New Delhi is succeeding.