Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was attempting to end separatism and remove terrorists from Kashmir through his controversial decision to strip the Indian-administered segment of Kashmir of its autonomy.
In an address to the nation on Thursday to explain the Hindu nationalist government's move, he said that India had taken a "historic decision" and that it signaled the beginning of a new era for the region. He said that Article 370 was being used as a weapon of terror, and that the people of the region were missing out on key laws and protections afforded to people in the rest of India.
He promised greater employment conditions, education benefits, health care, financial schemes and progress for the region as a result of rescinding Article 370. Modi promised greater electoral freedom and that the people of Jammu and Kashmir would be able to elect their own leaders in the near future.
"Friends, I have full belief that we will be able to free Jammu and Kashmir from terrorism and separatism under this system," Modi said. "I have full faith that the people of Jammu and Kashmir, after defeating separatism, will move forward with new hopes and aspirations."
Fears of reaction
The surprise decision this week to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has renewed concern that the move could trigger a violent reaction in the Muslim-majority region already rocked by regular protests against Indian rule. Lawmakers also stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its status as an Indian state, splitting it into two territories directly governed by New Delhi.
To suppress any unrest, New Delhi has cut communications, implemented a curfew and deployed thousands of additional troops to the Himalayan region. Local media reported more than 600 arrests have been made.
Read more: Kashmir: The world's most dangerous conflict
In recent months, there have been nearly daily clashes in Kashmir between Indian soldiers and militants, which New Delhi says are backed by Pakistan. Islamabad denies the accusations, saying its support is only political.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan both claim the whole of divided Kashmir, over which they have fought two of three wars since independence in 1947. Both sides also fought a limited war in 1999.
Most Kashmiris want the territory to be united with Pakistan or ruled as an independent country.
On Wednesday, Pakistan said it would downgrade diplomatic ties with its neighbor, expel the Indian ambassador and suspend trade.
Threat of war
A member of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's Cabinet told DW on Thursday that any potential war with India would have global ramifications.
"I don't want to get into warmongering but believe me, if there is war between India and Pakistan, this is not going to be a usual war or the war that will be limited to one country. The extent of this war will be felt in capitals from Berlin to Washington and from Riyadh to Tehran," Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry told DW.
"We want to make it a point that we will not take it lightly. We have fought three wars in Kashmir. We have sacrificed blood."
However, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad that his country would not resort to military action with India.
"Pakistan is not looking at the military option. We are rather looking at political, diplomatic, and legal options to deal with the prevailing situation," he told reporters.
UN calls for calm
Later on Thursday, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres called on both countries "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.
"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," he added.
aw, cw/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)