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Pakistan boycotts India at SAARC session in New York

Pakistan’s foreign minister on Thursday boycotted the speech of his Indian counterpart at the meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) being held on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

In a statement, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said he walked out from the ministerial conference of the SAARC — regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union of states in South Asia — in protest against India’s scrapping of special rights of disputed Jammu Kashmir region, and a consistent clampdown there.

“India has to ensure the fundamental human rights of Kashmiris. There will be no talks until India lifts the curfew and stop human rights violations in the occupied Kashmir,” Qureshi said.

Tensions between the two South Asian nuclear neighbors have mounted following the Indian government’s move on Aug. 5 to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir has been under a near-complete lockdown since then, with the government blocking communication access and imposing restrictions on movement to thwart any protests in the region.

Several rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly called on India to lift restrictions and release political detainees.

India said that 93% of the restrictions have been eased in the conflict-ridden region, a claim that Anadolu Agency could not independently verify.

From 1954 until Aug. 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed a special status under the Indian constitution which allowed it to enact its own laws. The provisions also protected the region’s citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.

Also, the Indian government further downgraded and divided the disputed region into two centrally controlled “union territories.”

India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.

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