BRIDGEWATER, NJ, Aug 17, (Agencies): US President Donald Trump told Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, in a call on Friday that it was important that India and Pakistan reduce tensions in Kashmir and Jammu through “bilateral dialogue,” the White House said in a statement. Meanwhile, authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir began restoring landline phone services on Saturday after a nearly two-week security crackdown and news blackout following a decision by India’s government to downgrade the Muslim-majority region’s autonomy.
Shahid Choudhary, a government administrator in Srinagar, the region’s main city, said restrictions were being lifted in most areas and government offices were open. He also said on Twitter that food and other supplies were available “in abundance.” Police said restrictions on the movement of people were relaxed in several parts of the region. “Situation remains peaceful,” they said on Twitter.
Rohit Kansal, another administrator in Srinagar, told reporters that public transport buses had started operating in some rural areas in Indian-controlled Kashmir. He also said cellphone and internet services had resumed in some districts, but news reports said that happened only in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region, which was not threatened by anti-India protests. Security forces that blanketed the region remained on high alert after hundreds of people took to the streets for an anti-India protest following Friday prayers in Srinagar.
The government had imposed the lockdown to avoid a violent reaction to its decision on Aug. 5 to downgrade the autonomy of the region. The decision by the Hindu-led government in New Delhi has raised tensions with Pakistan and touched off anger in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir. There was a deadly exchange of gun and mortar firing between Indian and Pakistani forces Saturday across the militarized Line of Control that divides Kashmir between the archrivals.
Both countries claim the Himalayan region in its entirety, and they have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir. An Indian soldier was killed by Pakistani forces in Nowshera sector, Col. Aman Anand, an Indian army spokesman, said in New Delhi. Earlier in the week, Pakistani security forces said firing by India in the region killed three Pakistani soldiers and two civilians in separate incidents. Both sides frequently exchange gunfire in the region and accuse each other of violating a 2003-cease-fire accord. In Islamabad, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said the country’s armed forces were fully prepared to respond to any Indian aggression.
The UN Security Council met to discuss Kashmir for the first time in decades, and Pakistan’s UN ambassador said the session showed that people in the region “may be locked up … but their voices were heard today.” The council took no action during the closed meeting, which was called for by China and Pakistan.
President Donald Trump spoke with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan by phone on Friday and conveyed the importance of India and Pakistan reducing tensions through dialogue, said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley. Khan welcomed the Security Council meeting, saying on Twitter that “addressing the suffering of the Kashmiri people and ensuring resolution of the dispute is the responsibility of this world body.”