India exchanged angry words with China over Kashmir Thursday after India officially canceled Kashmir’s constitutional right to self-rule.
The Indian government split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federal territories. The move is part of a government effort to fully unite the area with India.
Kashmir has a Muslim majority and is divided between India and Pakistan. China claims part of the area under Indian control.
On Thursday, stores and offices were closed in Kashmir, and the streets in the main city of Srinagar were largely empty. New officials were sworn into office in the biggest restructuring of the 173-year-old former kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir.
Protesters were on the streets on the Pakistani side of the territory. Pakistan has condemned the Indian move and claims it owns all of Kashmir.
China also condemned India for deciding on its own to change the status of Jammu and Kashmir. China claims the part of Kashmir called Ladakh, which has been under Indian control for many years.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry official said the future of Kashmir is a question that should be decided peacefully.
“The Indian government officially announced the establishment of so called Jammu Kashmir territory and the Ladakh Union territory which included some of China’s territory,” said spokesman Geng Shuang.
“China…firmly opposed that…this is not effective in any way and will not change the fact that the area is under China’s actual control,” he added.
India and China fought a war in 1962. Since then, they have been unable to settle their border disagreement.
India’s foreign ministry rejected China’s comments. An Indian spokesman said Kashmir was part of the country. He added that any reorganization of the state should not concern other countries.
“We do not expect other countries, including China, to comment on the matters which are internal to India,” spokesman Raveesh Kumar told reporters.
The Indian government has not made any comments on China’s policy in Xinjiang. It has refused to join United States-led calls that China stop detaining ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims. It has also limited official contacts with the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan spiritual leader lives in exile in northern India.
Kumar said China was in illegal occupation of parts of Kashmir including Ladakh.
The diplomatic argument came just days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks in southern India. At the meeting, they promised to improve political and economic ties.
Modi has said the special rights Kashmir enjoyed for years has held back its growth and fueled separatism.
India’s federal government divided up Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. Muslim Jammu and Kashmir became one state, while the largely Buddhist Ladakh is the other.
Both will be directly ruled by the federal government.
India blames Pakistan for keeping ideas of separatism alive, which Pakistan denies.
Angry protesters took to a main road in Pakistani Kashmir’s main city on Thursday to condemn the creation of the two Indian territories.
I’m Susan Shand.
VOA’s Zeba Siddiqui and Fayaz Bukhari reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
kingdom – n. a land whose ruler is a king or queen
status – n. the official standing or position of someone or something
internal – adj. existing inside of something