Indian national security adviser claims communications blackout is for the ‘protection’ of Kashmiris
The lifting of New Delhi’s communications restrictions in India-held Kashmir depends on Pakistan stopping deploying “terrorists” and fomenting unrest there, India’s national security adviser claimed on Saturday.
More than a month after India stripped the restive region of its autonomy and severely restricted movement, mobile phone networks and the internet remain cut off in all but a few pockets. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval said that “100 percent” of landlines now worked but that a further easing depends on Pakistan, which he alleged has sent 230 militants into the region.
“Lifting the communications depends on how Pakistan behaves,” Doval told reporters. “We are determined to protect the lives of Kashmiris from Pakistani terrorists even if we have to impose restrictions.”
Doval also said that India had intercepted messages sent by Pakistani “communication towers” over the effective border to operatives inside Indian-held Kashmir. He added that he believes a “majority” of Kashmiris backed India’s step on Aug. 5 to scrap Kashmir’s special status since they felt it would bring economic and other benefits.
Kashmir, split between India and Pakistan since 1947, has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between the two nuclear-armed archrivals. Indian-held Kashmir has seen a decades-old armed rebellion—backed by Pakistan, New Delhi says—against Indian rule with tens of thousands, mostly civilians, killed.
Multiple sources have told AFP that several thousand people have been detained since Aug. 5, including local politicians. A senior government source told AFP last week that at least 500 protests and incidents of stone throwing have occurred, leaving nearly 100 civilians and 400 members of the Indian security forces injured.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has compared the Indian government to the Nazis, has been on a diplomatic offensive against New Delhi’s move in Muslim-majority Kashmir, saying it is bent on “ethnic cleansing.”
Indian media on Saturday quoted U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus as saying Washington remained “very concerned by widespread detentions, including of local political and business leaders, and the restrictions on the residents of the region. We are also concerned about reports that Internet and mobile phone access continues to be blocked in certain regions.”
India has repeatedly insisted that Kashmir is purely an internal matter and has bristled at outside comment or suggestions of mediation.