Indian PM Modi to meet Kashmir leaders first time after revoking territory's special status

New Delhi - Experts say the meeting is meant to ward off mounting criticism at home and abroad.


Published: Thu 24 Jun 2021, 10:16 AM

Last updated: Thu 24 Jun 2021, 10:21 AM

India's prime minister was scheduled to hold a crucial meeting with politicians from Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday for the first time since New Delhi stripped the region's semi-autonomy.

Experts say the meeting is meant to ward off mounting criticism at home and abroad after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in August 2019 changed the region’s status, split it into two federal territories — Ladakh and Jammu-Kashmir — and removed inherited protections on land and jobs for the local population.

Since then, Indian authorities have imposed a slew of administrative changes through new laws. Modi has repeatedly called the changes overdue and necessary to foster economic development and fully integrate Kashmir with India.

Article 370: All you need to know about Kashmir special status

Modi was chairing the meeting in New Delhi later Thursday that is likely to be attended by the Himalayan region’s 14 political leaders, including Modi’s own party members.

Among those invited are Kashmir’s former three top elected officials — Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah, and Mehbooba Mufti, who was a regional coalition partner of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party for nearly two years after the 2016 state elections.

The three and few other invited leaders were among thousands arrested and held for months in 2019. They have criticized India’s policies in Kashmir and formed an alliance with four other parties to fight them, calling them “spitefully shortsighted and unconstitutional.”

The meeting was happening in the backdrop of the reaffirmation of a 2003 cease-fire accord between India and Pakistan in February as part of a peace deal.

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