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Kashmir 'Curbs' to Be Lifted Gradually

An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard as Kashmiri Muslims offer Friday prayers on a street outside a local mosque during curfew like restrictions in Srinagar, India, Aug. 16, 2019.

Indian government officials say restrictions imposed on the Indian-controlled Kashmir region will be "lifted gradually."

The Indian Supreme Court heard petitions Friday from Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin challenging the curbs imposed 12 days ago on Kashmir by India.

A lawyer for Bhasin told the panel, according to the Deccan Chronicle newspaper, that communication systems need to be restored as soon as possible so journalists can do their jobs in the region that is claimed by both India and Pakistan.

On Thursday, Pakistan said three of its soldiers were killed in clashes with India across the disputed Kashmir border, known as the Line of Control (LoC), amid increasing tensions between the two nations over the Himalayan region.

A Pakistani army spokesman claimed five Indian soldiers also were killed in retaliatory fire. The Press Trust of India said late Thursday an Indian army spokesman told the news agency late Thursday that the report of five Indian soldiers killed was "fictitious."

Also Thursday, Pakistan summoned the senior most Indian diplomat in Islamabad to the foreign ministry to condemn what an official statement described as "the unprovoked cease fire violations" by Indian forces in several sectors along the de facto Kashmir border. “The cease fire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation,” the statement said.
Pakistan already has expelled the Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, and has suspended all bilateral trade and public transport links in response to India’s recent actions in Kashmir.

Kashmiri Muslim boys offer Friday prayers at the doorway of a local mosque in an alley during curfew like restrictions in Srinagar, India, Aug. 16, 2019.
Kashmiri Muslim boys offer Friday prayers at the doorway of a local mosque in an alley during curfew like restrictions in Srinagar, India, Aug. 16, 2019.

Tensions have significantly escalated between the two nuclear-armed rival countries since August 5 when New Delhi abruptly ended semi-autonomous status for the Indian-administered portion of the divided Himalayan region and bifurcated it into two territories to be directly controlled by the federal government.

A massive security crackdown and communications blackout to deter violent reactions to the controversial move have since cut off millions of residents of Kashmir from the rest of the world.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended his decision to strip Kashmir of its special status during a speech Thursday marking India's independence.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, while denouncing the security lockdown in Kashmir, warned in a tweet Thursday that India's Hindu-nationalist government could be planning another "Srebrenica-type massacre & ethnic cleansing of Muslims." Khan referred to the 1995 massacre of thousands of ethnic Muslims, mainly men and boys, during the Bosnian war.

On Wednesday, the Pakistani leader claimed his country possessed "credible information" Indian military forces were planning a major cross-border attack to divert international attention from abuses being inflicted on Kashmiris.

The United Nations Security Council is expected to hold a closed-door meeting Friday to discuss the situation in Kashmir.

Polish ambassador Joanna Wronecka, the council's president for August, confirmed to VOA on Wednesday that the consultations were requested by China. It will be the first U.N. debate over Kashmir since 1971.

Kashmir has triggered two full scale wars between India and Pakistan since they both gained independence from Britain in 1947, and the territorial dispute remains the primary sources of regional tensions.

Pakistani and Indian militaries routinely accuse each other of firing the first shot across the LoC in violation of a 2002 cease-fire agreement, although both sides privately admit almost daily clashes in recent years have rendered the truce ineffective.