Pakistan angry at India's move to strip Kashmir of 'special' status

Hindu pilgrims trek through Kashmir.
Hindu pilgrims trek through Kashmir. Photo credit: Reuters

Pakistan says it will downgrade diplomatic relations and suspend bilateral trade with arch-rival India after New Delhi stripped its portion of the contested Kashmir region of special status.

Neighbours China and Pakistan, which both claim parts of the region, have voiced fierce opposition to India's removal of a constitutional provision that had allowed the country's only Muslim-majority state to make its own laws.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have twice waged war over Kashmir and in February engaged in an aerial clash.

India, which has been battling insurgents there for 30 years, said the special status had hindered Kashmir's development and it wanted to fully integrate the region with the rest of the country.

A spokesman for India's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Pakistan's move.

Thousands of Indian security forces kept a lid on protests in Kashmir on Wednesday, helped by the continued suspension of telephone and internet services after the Himalayan region's special status was scrapped this week.

Streets in the main city of Srinagar were deserted for a third day, with almost all shops shut, barring some pharmacies.

Armed federal police manned mobile checkpoints across the city, limiting people's movement.

Knots of young protesters threw stones at soldiers, police and a witness said, amid anger over the telecoms clampdown that began on Sunday.

"These [protests] are mostly localised because of the heavy troop deployment," a police officer said, adding that officers used tear gas and pepper spray to scatter the protesters.

A witness described an episode of hours of stone-throwing on Tuesday in the Old Barzullah area near the city centre.

"I saw around 100 boys, in small groups, pelting stones," he said.

"The police fired tear gas to beat them back."

The Huffington Post reported that 13 people had been admitted with pellet injuries to their eyes to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital in Srinagar, citing a hospital official.

It also quoted a resident of the old quarter of Srinagar, Owais Ahmad, as saying he was walking near his house when paramilitary forces fired pellets at him.

India accuses Pakistan of training and arming Islamist militants fighting its rule in Kashmir.

Islamabad denies the allegation and says it only gives moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.

Reuters