NEW DELHI • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to scrap autonomy for Kashmir after imposing an unprecedented lockdown across the region was set to be tested yesterday at the United Nations Security Council.
This came after his country's top court deferred a case calling on his government to lift restrictions in Kashmir that have been in place for nearly a fortnight.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi adjourned a petition challenging the information blackout. Another plea questioning the government's move to scrap the constitutional provision was also postponed on grounds of being badly drafted. Both will be taken up at a later date, the court said.
The United Nations Security Council was expected to hold a closed-door meeting after China backed Pakistan's call for the international body to discuss India's decision on the disputed Muslim-majority state. The last time the full Security Council met to discuss the Himalayan region was in 1965.
The developments are the first concrete steps questioning Mr Modi's decision to convert Jammu and Kashmir into two federally administered regions, separating Buddhist-majority Ladakh along its China border. The surprise move gives his administration control of the local police and allows Indians outside Kashmir to buy land.
Hundreds of protesters in Indian-administered Kashmir clashed yesterday with police, who responded with tear gas rounds and pellet-firing shotguns. The clashes broke out after thousands rallied in the main city of Srinagar. Protesters hurled stones and used shop hoardings and tin sheets as improvised shields, as police shot dozens of rounds into the crowd. No injuries were reported.
Restrictions on movement of people and communications will be gradually eased in the next few days, Mr B.V.R. Subrahmanyam Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir, said at a press conference yesterday in Srinigar. Telephone lines were to start functioning in phases from yesterday night, he said.
India has called the Kashmir decision an internal matter with no bearing on its international borders with Pakistan and China, but Beijing was quick to criticise the move. It issued a strongly worded statement last week questioning the impact on the mainly Buddhist region of Ladakh - an area of strategic importance nestled between Tibet and Pakistan.
Still, with Beijing's main focus on its relationship with the United States and the trade war, it is not clear how much effort it will devote to pushing the Kashmir issue at the UN Security Council, said Mr C. Uday Bhaskar, director of the Society for Policy Studies in New Delhi.
The Indian government was to reopen the Jammu and Kashmir secretariat and other government offices yesterday, while easing other restrictions would depend on developments after yesterday's prayers, the Press Trust of India reported.
Meanwhile, India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh hinted yesterday that New Delhi might change its "no first use" policy on nuclear weapons amid heightened tensions with fellow atomic power Pakistan. Among India's neighbours, China has a similar doctrine but Pakistan does not.
Mr Singh, after visiting India's nuclear weapon testing site at Pokharan, tweeted to say that India remains "firmly committed" and "has strictly adhered to" the doctrine, but "what happens in the future depends on the circumstances."
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE