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India receives foreign diplomats to visit controversial Kashmir




SRINAGAR, India (AP) – Diplomats from nearly two dozen countries visited Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday as residents of the disputed region’s main city closed their shops and businesses in protest.

This is the third visit by a group of foreign envoys stationed in the Indian capital since the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi removed Kashmir from its semi-autonomous status in August 2019 and implemented the change with a stern blow that for a while involved a complete cessation of communication.

The diplomats were led by Indian authorities to a convoy amid tight security measures from the airport in the town of Srinagar in the western city of Magam, where they met officials and a select group of recently elected village councilors. Shops and businesses in Magam were also closed in protest.

The diplomats were also scheduled to meet with a select group of civil society members, businessmen, pro-Indian politicians and journalists. They were scheduled to fly to Jammu, the region’s winter capital, on Thursday.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but is claimed by both in its entirety. Rebels in the region have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989.

Prior to the 2019 change, Indian-controlled Kashmir was a state that had a semi-autonomous status giving its natives special rights in land ownership and jobs.

In anticipation of a reaction against the abolition of that autonomy, the Indian authorities sent additional troops to the highly militarized region and launched a fierce security crackdown that cut off telephone and internet access, closed schools and left hundreds of thousands jobless. Many of the restrictions have been eased since then, but India’s security presence in the region remains high.

Ahead of diplomats arriving Wednesday, authorities removed at least half a dozen security bunkers in and around Srinagar.

Many Muslim Kashmiris support the rebellious intention to unite the territory either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. India has labeled the terrorism of the rebel movement.

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