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It decides to take Kashmir issue to the UN, observe Aug. 15 as ‘Black Day’

Dissent across border: Pakistanis staging a demonstration in Islamabad on Wednesday against India’s decision to end the special status to Jammu and Kashmir. AFPAAMIR QURESHI

Pakistan on Wednesday expelled the Indian High Commissioner and suspended bilateral trade in response to New Delhi’s decision to end the special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

“The Government of India has been told to withdraw its High Commissioner to Pakistan. The Indian government has also been informed that Pakistan will not be sending its High Commissioner-designate to India,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Ajay Bisaria is India’s High Commissioner in Islamabad.

The decisions were taken at a National Security Committee (NSC) meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan at his office in Islamabad. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi read out the NSC decisions, while addressing a joint session of Parliament.

Be vigilant, forces told

The Committee has also decided to review bilateral arrangements and take the Kashmir issue to the UN, including the Security Council, he said.

Pakistan will observe August 14, its Independence Day, “in solidarity with brave Kashmiris” and August 15 as a “Black Day.” “The PM has also directed all diplomatic channels to be activated in order to expose the brutal Indian racist regime, design and human rights violations. The PM directed Pakistani Armed Forces to continue vigilance,” tweeted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the ruling party.

The NSC meeting was attended by the Foreign Minister, the Defence Minister, the Minister for Human Rights, the Army chief, the DG ISI, the DG ISPR and several other senior officials of the military and the government.

On Tuesday, while addressing Parliament, Mr. Khan had warned that India’s decision could trigger more violent incidents in Kashmir.

He had also said Pakistan decided not to pursue talks with India after having realised that it was not interested in them.

Senior journalist Gharidah Farooqi said he believes that the NSC decisions had changed the dynamics of the bilateral relations.

Phone and Internet connectivity continue to be disrupted

Stranded on the street: Children sleeping on a pavement outside the Tourist Reception Centre in Srinagar as their parents make efforts to leave the Valley.NISSAR AHMAD

Looking at a nearly deserted road that functions as Jammu’s main outstation bus stand, Shubham Sharma said on Wednesday that though his business of ferrying passengers to Srinagar had taken a hit over the past three days, he was sure that “this [amending Article 370] was the best option, even for Kashmiris.”

It had been three days since the government imposed restrictions under Section 144 of the CrPC, curtailing vehicular movement and shutting off mobile Internet services in Jammu, ahead of its announcement of revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcating the State into two Union Territories on Monday.

While many Jammu residents welcomed the Modi government’s move, across the road from Mr. Sharma, Umar, a resident of Srinagar who also runs a tourism transport business, termed it a “betrayal.”

Umar, who wished to be identified by his first name alone, said he drove from Srinagar overnight to avoid the stone-pelting by protesters, just in order to make a phone call to relatives abroad. Since Sunday night, all phone — mobile and fixed line — services and Internet connectivity in Srinagar have been stopped on government orders.

“The government has put us at gunpoint. We had an agreement with India, not with Pakistan, when we joined. Now, they have broken the agreement. What relation do we have left with them? Now, anyone can come and claim Kashmir, be it Pakistan or China,” said Umar, as he waited for information about when he could start driving back to Srinagar, if the roads were open.

EMIs to fall after ‘unconventional’ 35 bps rate reduction

The Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday opted to break with convention by reducing the key policy rate, the repo rate, by 35 basis points (bps) to 5.4% as it focused monetary policy measures on helping revive demand to tackle a deepening economic slowdown.

While central banks typically cut or raise interest rates in increments of a quarter percentage point or in multiples, Governor Shaktikanta Das said too much should not be read into the departure from convention.

The extent of cut was determined by the situation, he said. This is the first time the RBI has moved rates by a figure that is not a multiple of 25 bps. A percentage point comprises 100 bps.

“Given the evolving economic situation, the assessment of the MPC, based on demand conditions etc. 25 bps cut was inadequate, while a 50 bps rate cut was excessive, especially after taking into account the actions already undertaken,” Mr. Das said in a post-policy press briefing. “That is why we have taken a balanced call.”

Tributes pour in from diplomatic community, world capitals

Irreparable loss: Sushma Swaraj’s husband Swaraj Kaushal and daughter Bansuri, centre, at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTIArun Sharma

Tributes poured in from the diplomatic community and world capitals for former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who was cremated here on Wednesday with full state honours.

The series of condolences were led by the Ministry of External Affairs that she exited in May.

“Enjoying immense respect within the Ministry and outside, for her compassionate and amiable personality, she has left a lasting legacy for putting people at the core of Indian diplomacy,” said the Ministry of External Affairs in a statement.

The United States, Japan, Bangladesh, and Bhutan were among the countries that condoled the passing away of Ms. Swaraj, who had a distinguished public life spanning more than four decades. “Saddened to hear of the passing of my friend and former Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. She was a strong partner who shared our view that a more democratic world is a more peaceful one,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a message.

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