India says lifting of Kashmir restrictions 'depends on Pakistan'

NEW DELHI, India – The lifting of New Delhi's communications restrictions in Indian Kashmir depends on Pakistan stopping deploying "terrorists" and fomenting unrest there, India's national security advisor said Saturday, September 7.

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 Advisor Ajit Doval said that "100 percent" of landlines now worked but that a further easing depends on Pakistan, which he said 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-administered Kashmir.

He added that he believes a "majority" of Kashmiris backed India's step on August 5 to scrap Kashmir's special status since they felt it would bring economic and other benefits.

Thousands detained 

Kashmir, split between India and Pakistan since 1947, has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals.

Indian-administered 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 Agence France-Presse that several thousand people have been detained since August 5, including local politicians.

A senior government source told Agence France-Press 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.

Pakistani 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 US 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," Ortagus said.

India has repeatedly insisted that Kashmir is purely an internal matter and has bristled at outside comment or suggestions of mediation.

On Saturday Pakistan said that it denied Indian President Ram Nath Kovind permission to fly through its airspace in view of New Delhi's "behavior."