Pakistan Expels Indian Ambassador As Kashmir Dispute Escalates

On Wednesday, August 7, Pakistan said that it would expel India’s ambassador and suspend bilateral trade relations with New Delhi in a meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Committee led by Prime Minister Imran Khan. This comes after India’s removal of a constitutional provision for the Kashmir region that had granted the region statehood and special status, allowing the Muslim-majority state its own constitution, according to the New York Times. 

“It is very obvious that our ambassador wouldn’t be in Delhi, and obviously the man who is here will also leave,” said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a telephone interview with ARY News. Indian Ambassador Ajay Bisaria will be expelled, while Pakistan’s newly appointed ambassador to India Moin-ul-Haq will cancel plans to move to New Delhi. 

Hindu-majority India claims that the special status has been hindering Kashmir’s development and hopes that its removal will ease integration of the region with the rest of the country. Days before Kashmir’s status was removed, the Indian government sent additional troops to the region and shut down most communications, including internet, in anticipation of revolts that could arise after the decision was released on August 6. 

Protests have indeed sprung up in Kashmir, but many of them have been small due to the preventive measures taken by New Delhi. “These [protests] are mostly localized because of the heavy troop deployment,” said an anonymous police officer. According to the New York Times, federal police are manning mobile checkpoints across the capital city of Srinagar, limiting movement. This clampdown on travel has also affected emergency services such as hospitals and fire departments, whose staff have been stopped and sometimes turned away at checkpoints. Although an official curfew is not in place, police vans patrol the streets at night, warning residents to remain indoors. 

Kashmir is a region steeped in conflict, with India, China, and Pakistan all claiming sovereignty over certain areas. After winning independence from the British in 1947, the two major contenders, India and Pakistan, have twice waged war over the mountainous land. As a Muslim-majority state, most Kashmiris oppose Indian rule. According to Reuters, insurgent groups have been fighting for independence from India or a merger with Pakistan since 1989. India has accused Pakistan of training these rebels, but Pakistan claims it only offers diplomatic and moral support.

In the national security meeting attended by heads of the armed forces and senior government officials on Wednesday, Khan told officials that Pakistan will use all diplomatic channels “to expose the brutal Indian racist regime” and human rights violations in Kashmir, according to the New York Times. Although Pakistan re-emphasized its commitment to diplomatic, political, and moral support for the Kashmir people, former Indian ambassador to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal downplayed the moves and called them “very symbolic measures.”

India’s rule on Kashmir, including restrictions of movement and telecommunications in the area, reveal direct violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Firstly, India’s governance regarding Kashmir impedes their right to self-determination and unfairly imposes Indian decisions on the region. As a disputed territory, New Delhi cannot change Kashmir’s status without UN approval, and they should reverse their decision. Secondly, the Indian government’s strict approach to quelling protests strips Kashmiris of the freedom of speech and assembly. Taking down communication services not only blocks demonstrations, but it also hinders emergency services such as hospitals and fire departments from operating effectively. Federal police have also acted violently toward residents, throwing tear gas at children and shooting pellets at protestors, even to the extent of having multiple people hospitalized. These acts of violence exacerbate the tensions in Kashmir and support an oppressive narrative. India should cease sending soldiers to the already heavily-militarized area and instruct remaining forces to be peaceful. Even though disputes over the territory will continue, India and Pakistan must work together to ensure the security of the people residing in the region.