Pakistan suspends trade with India, downgrades diplomatic ties

Indian policemen stand guard at a base camp near Pahalgam in the Kashmir region. (Reuters pic)

AMSTERDAM: Pakistan downgraded diplomatic relations and suspended bilateral trade with India, a move triggered after New Delhi revoked seven decades of autonomy in the disputed Muslim-majority state of Kashmir.

After a meeting of top officials on Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government announced a series of measures to oppose what it called “unilateral and illegal actions” taken by India.

They also included taking the matter to the United Nations Security Council and ensuring the army remained vigilant.

Khan “directed that all diplomatic channels be activated to expose brutal Indian racist regime, design and human rights violations,” the Pakistan government statement said.

India’s foreign ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking comment from Bloomberg News.

Bilateral trade between the countries amounted to about US$2.5 billion in 2018, roughly 3% of Pakistan’s total trade and about 0.3% of India’s commerce.

Modi’s decision on Kashmir fulfilled a campaign promise made to his Hindu base, which opposed special treatment for the region.

Kashmir has been the main flashpoint between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, which have fought several wars since the British left the subcontinent in 1947.

Relations between the two South Asian rivals have been under strain since February when a suicide bombing in Kashmir killed 40 Indian paramilitary troops.

Both countries exchanged airstrikes afterwards.

Kashmir is a Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan since 1947 and claimed in full by both. The countries have fought two of their three wars over the territory.

While they regularly exchange artillery and small-weapons fire across a disputed border, the use of airstrikes was an escalation not seen in decades.

India accuses Pakistan of supporting armed extremists in Jammu and Kashmir, its only Muslim-dominated state. Pakistan denies the charges and says it offers only moral support to separatists.