Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Thursday his powderkeg move to strip the disputed Kashmir region of its autonomy was necessary to stop “terrorism”, as Pakistan voiced further outrage and the UN chief urged “maximum restraint.”
Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government imposed direct rule on the Indian held portion of Kashmir on Monday, setting off a new crisis in one of the world’s most volatile security flashpoints.
Speaking for the first time since the move, and with the people of Kashmir enduring a military lockdown, Modi hailed it as a “historic decision” that would bring peace to the region.
“Friends, I have full belief that we will be able to free Jammu and Kashmir from terrorism and separatism under this system,” Modi said in a televised address.
He accused Pakistan of using the special status “as a weapon against the country to inflame the passions of some people” against India.
Modi said the special status had “not given anything other than terrorism, separatism, nepotism and big corruption”.
But with Kashmir now fully part of the Indian union, the region would enjoy more jobs, corruption and red-tape, he said, adding that key infrastructure projects would be expedited.
Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India since independence from the British in 1947.
The contesting claims over Kashmir have led to two of the three wars between the neighbours.
Pakistan said Thursday it would not take military action this time.
“Pakistan is not looking at the military option. We are rather looking at political, diplomatic, and legal options to deal with the prevailing situation,” Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said at a press conference in Islamabad.
Tensions remained high, however, with Qureshi’s comments coming on the heels of a decision by Islamabad to downgrade its diplomatic ties with India, suspend bilateral trade, and expel the country’s envoy.
Pakistan has also promised to take the matter to the United Nations Security Council.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan displayed his rage in a series of tweets calling for international action to stop India.
“What should be obvious is the int community will be witnessing the genocide of the Kashmiris,” Khan posted in one tweet.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres called Thursday on India and Pakistan “to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir”.