India’s ambassador to the United Nations on Friday slammed ‘international interference’ over Kashmir, after the Security Council held its first formal meeting on the disputed region in almost 50 years.
The discussions, which were requested by Pakistan and China and took place behind closed doors, follow New Delhi’s decision to strip its portion of the Muslim-majority territory of its autonomy earlier this month.
“We don’t need international busybodies to try to tell us how to run our lives. We are a billion plus people,” Syed Akbaruddin told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York following the meeting.
It is extremely rare for the Security Council to discuss Kashmir, which has been divided between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947.
It last met to formally discuss the issue in 1971.
On August 5, New Delhi scrapped Article 370 in the Indian constitution that had granted Kashmir special autonomy. It split the state of Jammu and Kashmir in two and downgraded their status to union territories, sparking a row with Pakistan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government also restricted freedom of movement in the region and cut the internet and phone lines.
Akbaruddin said the restrictions were “reasonable” and are being eased.
“Public order is integral to ensuring that democracy prospers,” he added, denying accusations that India was committing human rights violations in the former Himalayan kingdom.
“India is a vibrant, thriving democracy and we live by it every day. We are committed to addressing the difficulties some of our people have. Please give us the time and space to address these,” he said.
Kashmir has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between nuclear-armed arch-rivals India and Pakistan, most recently in February when they conducted tit-for-tat air strikes.
India has regularly blocked discussion of Kashmir at the UN because it considers the matter an internal affair.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the world body hailed Friday’s meeting as evidence the region is an “internationally recognized dispute.”
“The voices of people of occupied Kashmir have been heard today by the highest diplomatic forum of the world,” Maleeha Lodhi told reporters.
“This the first and not the last step. It will not end here. It will only end when justice is done to the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” she said, adding that Pakistan wanted “a peaceful settlement.”