Islamabad: Pakistan announced on Wednesday that it is expelling Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria and suspending bilateral trade a day after New Delhi stripped Jammu and Kashmir of special status and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories.
"We will call back our ambassador from Delhi and send back their envoy,” Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced in televised comments, while a government statement declared that Pakistan will suspend trade in a downgrading of diplomatic ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
The announcement was made after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a crucial meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), attended by top civil and military leadership, during which it was also decided to suspend the bilateral trade and review "bilateral arrangements". The NSC is the highest forum of civil and military top leadership to come together and discuss important matters of national security.
"Pursuant to the decision of the National Security Committee today, the Government of India has been told to withdraw its High Commissioner to Pakistan," said a statement from the Foreign Office released after the NSC meeting. "The Indian government has also been informed that Pakistan will not be sending its High Commissioner-designate to India."
India on Monday repealed provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to withdraw the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. While India's High Commissioner Bisaria is in Islamabad, his Pakistani counterpart Moin-ul-Haq was expected to leave for India this month to take up his responsibilities.
The statement issued after the NSC meeting read that the committee discussed the situation "arising out of unilateral and illegal actions" by the Indian government, the situation inside Jammu and Kashmir and along the Line of Control (LoC). The committee decided upon "downgrading of diplomatic relations with India" and "suspension of bilateral trade with India", it added.
The NSC also decided to review "bilateral arrangements" with India. The committee resolved to take the matter (abolition of the Article 370 by India) to the United Nations, including the Security Council, the statement said. It added that the country will observe this Independence Day on August 14 in solidarity with Kashmiris. "August 15 will be observed as Black Day," it said.
PM Khan also directed that all diplomatic channels be activated to highlight the alleged human rights violations in the Valley. He also directed the military to continue vigilance, according to the statement.
A number of Indian ministers described Pakistan's decision as "short-sighted" and a "knee-jerk" one.
The Foreign Minister, Defence Minister, Interior Minister, Adviser on finance, Kashmir Affairs Minister as well as Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman, three services chiefs, ISI chief, and other top officials attended the meeting.
The NSC met after the meeting of top military generals and a rare joint session of parliament on the Kashmir issue on Tuesday. It was the second meeting of Pakistan's top decision-making body this week.
On Sunday, Khan convened the NSC meeting to discuss issues pertaining to national security in the wake of developments in the region. Khan on Tuesday expressed apprehension that Pulwama-like attacks can follow the revocation of the special status for Jammu and Kashmir, which could trigger a conventional war between Pakistan and India.
"This will be a war that no one will win and the implications will be global," he warned while addressing a rare joint sitting of Parliament that was convened to discuss the Kashmir situation.
Khan said his government would approach world leaders and apprise them of the situation in Kashmir. "We will fight it at every forum, including the UN Security Council," he said, adding that Pakistan also plans to take the matter to the International Court of Justice.
Speaking in Parliament, Foreign Minister Qureshi said on Wednesday that India has only harmed itself by revoking the special status of Kashmir. "History will prove that this action of India will badly impact its union," he said.
Qureshi said all bilateral agreements with India would be reviewed by a special committee already set up by Khan to suggest measures against Indian actions. The foreign minister said he might visit China for consultations over the issue.
Pakistan lawmakers unanimously passed a resolution condemning "Indian action in Kashmir and pledging support for Kashmiris". The resolution was adopted by the joint session of parliament after the lawmakers discussed the situation in Kashmir for two days. It reiterated the "strong conviction of Pakistan that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute would be resolved only through dialogue and diplomacy and in accordance with international law."
Pakistan has condemned and rejected the Indian government's decision and vowed to exercise "all possible options" to counter India's "illegal" and "unilateral" step.
India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January of 2016 by Pakistan-based terrorists, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.
Early this year, tensions flared up between the neighbours after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir's Pulwama district.
Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured Indian pilot, who was handed over to India on March 1.
(With inputs from PTI)