Pakistan said Wednesday it will "downgrade" diplomatic relations and suspend bilateral trade with arch-rival India after New Delhi stripped its portion of the contested Kashmir region of special status. On Monday, the Indian government revoked Kashmir's status in a decree that was condemned as illegal by Pakistan and marks one of the most destructive steps taken in the disputed Himalayan region in seven decades. The decree also proposes to divide the Indian-administered part of Kashmir into two regions directly ruled by New Delhi. The dispute over Kashmir is one of the oldest on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council, along with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The region, which is split between the two countries but claimed by each in its entirety, has been the cause of two wars between the neighbors since they were partitioned in 1947. The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two of their three wars over the territory, and engaged in an aerial clash in February after a militant group based in Pakistan claimed responsibility for an attack on an Indian military convoy.
Thousands of Indian security forces kept a lid on protests in disputed Kashmir, helped by the continued suspension of telephone and internet services. Streets in the region's main city of Srinagar were deserted for a third day, with almost all shops shut, barring some chemists. Armed federal police manned mobile checkpoints across the city, limiting people's movement.
Despite a paralyzing curfew imposed to head off unrest, sporadic protests have been reported by residents in the main city, Srinagar. A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that in one incident a youth being chased by police "jumped into the Jhelum river and died." The incident happened in Srinagar's old town which has become a hotbed of anti-India protests during the three-decade insurgency in Kashmir that has left tens of thousands dead. A source told AFP that at least six people have been admitted to hospital in Srinagar with gunshot wounds and other injuries from protests. More than 100 people, included political leaders and activists, have been arrested as part of the lockdown for being a threat to the peace in the Himalayan valley, officials told the Press Trust of India.
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