UN chief calls for 'maximum restraint' in Kashmir

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UNITED NATIONS — United Nations chief Antonio Guterres called Thursday on India and Pakistan "to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir."

"The Secretary-General has been following the situation in Jammu and Kashmir with concern and makes an appeal for maximum restraint," his spokesperson said.

India's Hindu nationalist government stripped the disputed region of its autonomy earlier this week in a move that sent shock waves through South Asia and has seen the restive area come under military lockdown.

Internet and telephone connections in Kashmir have been cut since Monday and a curfew imposed as the authorities feared trouble when the decision was announced.

"The Secretary-General is also concerned over reports of restrictions on the Indian-side of Kashmir, which could exacerbate the human rights situation in the region," Guterres's spokesperson added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration rushed through a presidential decree on Monday to ditch the Muslim-majority region's constitutionally-guaranteed status.

Parliament also passed a law splitting the state into two territories. Kashmir is also claimed by Pakistan, which on Wednesday expelled India's ambassador and suspended all trade in protest at the move.

Modi has said nuclear rival Pakistan used the special status "as a weapon against the country to inflame the passions of some people" against the Indian state.

Tens of thousands of people have died in a three-decade-old insurgency in Kashmir.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the Himalayan region.

 Agence France-Presse

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