Pakistan expels Indian envoy, suspends trade over Article 370 repeal

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan - The Federal

Pakistan has expelled Indian envoy in Islamabad, according to a news agency AFP.

As per news reports, the government of Pakistan decided not to send its High Commissioner-designate to India, who was to take charge later this month.

An ANI tweet said it may also ask Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria to leave the country.

The move came two days after India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir given under Article 370.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan directed downgrading of diplomatic relations with India and suspension of bilateral trade. The country is also set to approach the United Nations, including the Security Council, over the issue.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) in Islamabad chaired by Khan and attended by top civil and military leadership, said a statement issued by the PM Office.

A statement issued after the meeting read that the Committee discussed the situation “arising out of unilateral and illegal actions” by the Indian government, and the situation inside Jammu and Kashmir and along the Line of Control.

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The Committee decided to “downgrade diplomatic relations with India” and “suspend bilateral trade with India,” the statement said. The NSC also decided to take the matter to the United Nations, including the Security Council, the statement said.

The Indian government abolished Article 370 of the Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

India has said that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India and that the issue was strictly internal to the country. The Pakistani statement said that the country will observe this Independence Day on August 14 in solidarity with Kashmiris.

“August 15 will be observed as Black Day,” it added. India celebrates August 15 as its Independence Day.

Prime Minister Khan also directed that all diplomatic channels be activated to highlight the alleged human rights violations in the Valley. He also directed the military to continue vigilance, according to the statement.

The Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, Interior Minister, Advisor on finance, Kashmir Affairs Minister as well as Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman, three services chiefs, ISI chief, and other top officials attended the meeting.

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The NSC met after the meeting of top military generals and and a rare joint session of parliament on the Kashmir issue on Tuesday (August 7). It was the second meeting of Pakistan’s top decision-making body this week.

On Sunday (August 4), Prime Minister Khan convened the NSC meeting to discuss issues pertaining to national security in the wake of developments in the region. Pakistan has condemned and rejected the Indian government’s decision and vowed to exercise “all possible options” to counter India’s “illegal” and “unilateral” step.

The NSC is the highest forum of civil and military top leadership to come together and discuss important matters of national security. India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January of 2016 by Pakistan-based terrorists, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.

Early this year, tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured an Indian pilot, who was handed back to India on March 1.

(With agencies inputs)