Indian envoy told to leave Pakistan, trade suspended

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PRIME Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the National Security Committee at the PM Office on Wednesday.—White Star
PRIME Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the National Security Committee at the PM Office on Wednesday.—White Star

• Diplomatic ties with New Delhi downgraded
• Nation to observe Independence Day in solidarity with Kashmiris and that of India’s as black day
• FM Qureshi to visit Beijing for consultations with Chinese leaders

ISLAMABAD: The National Security Committee (NSC) on Wednesday decided to downgrade diplomatic ties with India and suspend bilateral trade in response to New Delhi’s move to annex occupied Kashmir.

The top national security body, which met for the second time in three days, also directed the armed forces to remain vigilant. The committee had last met on Sunday, a day before India announced revocation of Article 370, which gave occupied Kashmir an autonomous status, and legislated to bifurcate the Valley into Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

The Foreign Office in its reaction to the Indian move had earlier vowed to “exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps”.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister Office after the NSC meeting said that it was decided to downgrade diplomatic relations with India, suspend bilateral trade, review bilateral arrangements, take the matter to the United Nations, including the Security Council, and observe Independence Day on Aug 14 in solidarity with Kashmiris and Aug 15 (India’s independence day) as black day.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who presided over the NSC meeting, ordered use of all diplomatic avenues to “expose brutal Indian racist regime, design and human rights violations” and directed the armed forces to continue vigilance.

Mr Khan had a day earlier, while speaking at the joint sitting of parliament on the Kashmir situation, called for fighting Hindu ideology, which he called as racist and one that represses all other religious groups.

Hours after the NSC meeting, an FO statement said New Delhi had been asked to withdraw High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria from Islamabad. Pakistan’s High Commissioner-designate Moinul Haq, who was expected to travel to India on Aug 16 for assuming charge of his assignment, has been stopped from proceeding to Delhi.

Pakistan’s decision to suspend bilateral trade is expected to hurt India more than Pakistan. Trade statistics show that the volume of bilateral trade during July-Jan 2018-19 was $1.122 billion, out of which 79.3 per cent ($890 million) were Indian exports to Pakistan. India, it should be recalled, had after the Pulwama incident withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation status for Pakistan and slapped a 200pc import duty on Pakistani goods.

Foreign Minister Shah Meh­mood Qureshi, while speaking at the joint session of parliament after attending the NSC meeting, said he would travel to Beijing for consultations with Chinese leaders on the issue of annexation of occupied Kashmir. He read out the decisions taken by the NSC and said India would regret its mistake of annexing held Kashmir. He said that Indian action had undermined the Simla agreement.

A resolution unanimously adopted at the end of the joint sitting of parliament rejected India’s “illegal, unilateral, reckless and coercive attempt to alter the disputed status of Indian-occupied Kashmir as enshrined in the UNSC resolutions”. It called upon the international community “to warn India to refrain from undertaking any irresponsible, unilateral actions that may lead to a dangerous escalation that will have far-reaching impact not only for South Asia but the entire world”. The resolution also rejected human rights abuses in occupied Kashmir.

Political consensus on Kashmir policy Meanwhile, former Pakistani diplomats and experts, while speaking at a roundtable discussion at the Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI) on “Abrogation of Article 370: Implications and Policy Options for Pakistan”, emphasised that Pakistan government should take credible measures to show its seriousness about Kashmir cause.

Former high commissioner to India Abdul Basit said he had forewarned in 2014 about likely abrogation of Article 370 by the Bharatiya Janata Party government, but no one then appeared interested about it in Islamabad. He stressed the need for a political consensus on Kashmir policy.

Former ambassador Ashraf Jahangir Qazi warned against having unrealistic expectations of support from major world powers on Kashmir, particularly from the United States. “The future of Kashmir now depends upon the resistance by Kashmiris,” he said and worried that Indians could resort to any means to control Kashmir, but US pressure through the Financial Action Task Force would constrain Pakistan’s options against India.

Former SPD official Khalid Banuri advised that International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion should be sought through the UN General Assembly.

Prof Sajjad Bokhari, the IPI executive director, said New Delhi could ultimately change demographic character of Jammu and Kashmir in an attempt to alter the fundamental nature of the conflict.

Policy analyst Syed Mohammad Ali said that Pakistan’s future Kashmir policy must holistically address concerns of Kashmiris and Pakistan’s security interests.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2019