Pakistan reacted in anger, but its response betrayed the lack of effective options and a bitter divide between Prime Minister Imran Khan and his political opponents, evident during the Pak Parliament debate. It announced the following steps after a meeting of its National Security Committee: downgrading of diplomatic relations (the Indian envoy in Islamabad was asked to leave), suspension of bilateral trade, review of bilateral arrangements and taking up the matter at the United Nations. Subsequently, the bus and rail services connecting the two countries were suspended by Pakistan. However, Foreign Minister Qureshi stated that Kartarpur corridor would not be affected. India characterized these measures as an attempt to present an alarming picture of bilateral ties to the world, asked Pakistan to review them and reiterated that the changes in the status of J&K were an internal affair. A resolution of the Pak Parliament rejected India’s “attempt to alter the disputed status” of Kashmir “as enshrined in the UNSC resolutions.” A Pak army statement expressed its resolve to go to any extent to help the Kashmiris. There is nothing in Pakistan’s largely symbolic and easily reversible retaliatory steps that India cannot live with. Suspension of trade may hurt Indian exporters, but will hurt the Pak economy even more, particularly by depriving its cotton textile and pharmaceutical industries of cheaper cotton and bulk drug imports from India.
August 21, 2019