Fri, 20 Sep 2019

UN Security Councils members have urged restraint amid rising fresh tensions between India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir.

The situation in the region deteriorated after New Delhi ruled earlier this month to end the decades-old autonomy in the part of the Muslim-majority region it controls, triggering a communications blackout amid harsh restrictions.

After the rare Security Council meeting on Kashmir on August 16, Chinese UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said there was serious concern over the situation.

Indian Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin accused Zhang of trying to pass off his remarks as 'the will of the international community.' He said India's decision was an internal matter.

Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi described her country's push for the Security Council meeting as 'the first and not the last step.' She said it was the first time in more than 50 years that the council had taken up the issue.

Telephone and Internet links were cut and public assembly banned just before India revoked the special status of Kashmir earlier this month. The top state official said authorities would begin restoring some telephone lines in the region later on August 16.

Hundreds of protesters in Indian-controlled Kashmir clashed with police on August 16 as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump about Kashmir.

'Today [Khan] has talked to President Trump. Views were exchanged on the situation in the region and particularly the situation in occupied Kashmir,' Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a news conference in Islamabad.

During a meeting with Khan in July, Trump said that Modi had asked him to help mediate the Kashmir dispute -- a claim New Delhi vehemently denied.

Carrying green Islamic flags and placards reading 'Stop genocide in Kashmir, wake up world,' protesters took to the streets in Srinagar, the region's main city, after Friday Prayers.

Some hurled stones and clashed with security forces, who responded with tear gas and pellets fired from shotguns.

No injuries were reported.

Sporadic clashes were also reported in other parts of the territory.

The confrontations occurred as a top Indian official, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam, said that the authorities would begin restoring phone lines in Kashmir, including in Srinagar, on August 16 in the evening.

Subrahmanyam did not say whether mobile phones and Internet connections would also be reinstated.

He said the restoration would '[keep] in mind the constant threat posed by terrorist organizations in using mobile connectivity to organize terrorist actions'.

India deployed 10,000 additional troops -- joining the half-million already in the Indian-controlled territory -- fearing a potentially violent response to its move to end Kashmir's autonomous status.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.

Two of the three wars between the two nuclear-armed neighbors were fought over the territory.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, Reuters, AP, and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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