Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned India that Pakistan is prepared to respond to any aggression in the disputed region of Kashmir as tensions skyrocketed between the nuclear-armed rivals in the wake of New Delhi’s revocation of the autonomy of the Muslim-majority Himalayan region.
In a televised speech from Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir on Wednesday, Khan vowed that the time has come to give New Delhi a “solid response.” “The Pakistani army has solid information that they are planning to do something in Pakistani Kashmir, and they are ready and will give a solid response,” the Pakistani premier said. “We have decided that if India commits any type of violation we will fight till the end.” The remarks came as tensions soared between the neighbors following India’s surprising move to revoke the autonomy of its portion of the disputed Himalayan territory last week. New Delhi-based Asian News International (ANI), quoting Indian government sources recently reported that Pakistan had reportedly begun moving military hardware to forward bases near the Indian border, raising concerns about a potential military confrontation with India over Kashmir region. “Three C-130 transport aircraft of the Pakistan Air Force were used on Saturday to ferry equipment to their Skardu air base opposite the Union Territory of Ladakh,” the source said. The report said that Pakistan was also “most likely” to deploy “JF-17 fighter planes” to the Skardu air base.
Pakistan’s army chief earlier said the country’s military would “go to any extent” to support people in the disputed Himalayan valley. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a surprise executive decree to strip its portion of the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of its special status. Modi has claimed that the decision was necessary for Kashmir’s economic development and to stop “terrorism.” In the wake of the move, Pakistan has formally asked the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) late Tuesday to hold an emergency session to address India’s “illegal actions.” According to a letter released by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the request in a letter to UNSC President Joanna Wronecka, seeking to participate in the meeting under the agenda item “India-Pakistan question.”
Earlier this week, Khan lambasted the international community for failing to challenge India over Kashmir. Pakistan has already also expelled the Indian ambassador, halted bilateral trade and suspended cross-border transport services. Analysts, however, said the actions were unlikely to move New Delhi. Indian authorities last week imposed security restrictions in Kashmir, fearing massive protests after Premier Modi ended the Himalayan region’s seven decades of autonomy. After the decision to scrap Kashmir’s autonomy, India dispatched thousands of additional troops to the Himalayan region, declared a strict curfew, shut down telecommunications and internet services, and arrested political leaders and pro-independence campaigners. The Indian Home Ministry tweeted Tuesday that the restrictions “were being eased out in a phased manner” in the valley.
While rules on the movement of people would be eased after India’s Independence Day celebrations on Thursday, state governor Satya Pal Malik said that phone lines and the internet would remain down. “We don’t want to give that instrument to the enemy until things settle down,” Malik told Times of India. “In a week or 10 days, everything will be alright and we will gradually open lines of communication.” But Munir Khan, a senior police officer in Kashmir, said that the military has used pellet-firing shotguns. “There have been 2-3 pellet injuries but they are nothing major. There is nothing grave,” media outlets quoted him as saying. He added that some security personnel were also injured. The 1,000-bed Srinagar’s main SMHS Hospital is usually busy but because of the curfew only a few beds were occupied in some sections. Many pharmacies have also run out of supplies. “We have run out of a lot of prescription drugs people here look for,” said Mubashir Hussain, a salesman at a medical shop in the Jawahar Nagar area where restrictions on public and vehicular movement have been eased since Monday. As tensions simmered with India, Pakistanis on Wednesday celebrated the 73rd Independence Day as Kashmir Solidarity Day to express full support to Kashmiris in their struggle for right to self-determination. Pakistan moved ahead with independence celebrations which began at the stroke of midnight with firework shows lighting up the skies in major cities, where residents jammed the streets waving the national flag from their cars and motorcycles. In August 1947, the British Raj was dismantled with the subcontinent divided into two independent states — Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. Millions were uprooted in one of the largest mass migrations in history, with experts estimating at least one million died in the communal violence unleashed by partition that continues to haunt the subcontinent to this day. Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.