Pakistan Mulling Closing Land Routes, Airspace to India over Kashmir

India defends blocking politicians from visiting Kashmir
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan threatened to shut down land routes for Indo-Afghan trade and impose a complete ban on the use of its airspace by Indian flights on Tuesday.

Islamabad is considering the move amid heightened tensions with New Delhi over the Hindu nationalist-led government’s August 5 decision to revoke Indian Kashmir’s autonomy.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also enforcing an ongoing security lockdown and communication blackout to quell protests to the August 5 move. Modi has deployed thousands of additional troops.

Pakistan and China — both of which have territorial claims to the predominantly Muslim region of Kashmir — have come out against Modi’s August 5 decision.

On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry announced Islamabad’s intentions to shut down its air and land routes to India.

Chaudhry wrote on Twitter:

PM [Imran Khan] is considering a complete closure of Air Space to India, a complete ban on use of Pakistan Land routes for Indian trade to Afghanistan was also suggested in cabinet meeting,legal formalities for these decisions are under consideration… [PM Modi] has started we’ll finish:

India’s trade with Afghanistan generates an estimated $1 billion. The top destination of Afghanistan’s exports is India.

The minister’s Twitter comments came a day after PM Khan pledged that Pakistan would “go to any lengths” to support the cause of the oppressed people in Indian Kashmir.

“I will be the ambassador of your cause across the globe,” Khan declared this month.

Pakistan and India claim Muslim-majority Kashmir in its entirety, but a border divides the region between the two nuclear-armed rivals. China also claims Kashmir territory ceded by Islamabad. New Delhi disputes China’s control of lands in Indian Kashmir.

As part of his August 5 move, Modi also split Indian Kashmir up into two federally-controlled regions.

Islamabad and Beijing have accused New Delhi of trying to carry out “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide” in Kashmir.

Critics have blasted Beijing for committing the same crimes in its only Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang, considered the largest province in the country. Xinjiang sits next to Kashmir.

New Delhi-administered Kashmir is the only Muslim-majority region in India. This year, the United States accused India’s ruling party of inciting hatred against Muslims.

Critics have also alleged that Pakistan has carried out an “ethnic cleansing” campaign against Hindus in Kashmir and residents of Balochistan, the largest province in the country.

Pakistan and China have warned that Modi’s decision to strip Indian Kashmir of its ability to make its laws could trigger a nuclear war.

In response, the Indian military asserted this week it is “not scared” of Pakistan’s nuclear threats.

India and Pakistan have fought two major wars over Kashmir. China and India have also engaged in a significant military conflict over the region, considered one of the most militarized areas in the world.

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