Islamabad correspondent Ayaz Gul and United Nations correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended his controversial decision to strip the Indian part of the disputed region of Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status during a speech Thursday marking the country's independence.
In a speech delivered from New Delhi's historic Red Fort, Modi said the "old arrangement" in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh "encouraged corruption and nepotism," while creating an unjust environment for women, children and tribal communities. But the law also allows non-residents from elsewhere in India to buy property in Kashmir, which critic fear it could lead to undermining of the Muslim majority in the area.
The Indian-controlled section of the majority Muslim Himalayan region has been under lockdown since August 4, when New Delhi deployed tens of thousands of additional troops to the region and cut off all communications in and out of Kashmir. Hundreds of Kashmiri leaders have also been placed under house arrest to quell widespread violent reaction.
The U.N. Security Council is expected to hold a closed-door meeting Friday on the situation in Kashmir. Polish ambassador Joanna Wronecka, the council's president for August, confirmed to VOA Wednesday that the consultations were requested by China. It will be the first U.N. debate over Kashmir since 1971.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a warning on his Twitter account Thursday that his country's neighbor and bitter rival could be planning another "Srebrenica-type massacre & ethnic cleansing of Muslims," referring to the 1995 massacre of thousands of ethnic Muslims, mainly men and boys, during the Bosnian war.
Islamabad already has expelled the Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, and has suspended all bilateral trade and public transport links in response to Modi's unexpected decision.
The ensuing developments have significantly escalated tensions between the two countries that have twice gone to full scale wars over Kashmir since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. India and Pakistan lately have armed their respective militaries with nuclear weapons and have come close to a war over the territorial dispute in February.