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Pakistan Downgrades Relations With India, Suspends Trade, Expels Top Envoy

FILE: Pakistani Rangers and Indian Border Security Force personnel lower their respective country flags at the Beating Retreat Ceremony at the India-Pakistan Wagah border post.

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan says it is downgrading its relations with nuclear rival India, suspending bilateral trade, and expelling New Delhi's top envoy, as tensions soar over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

"We will call back our ambassador from Delhi and send back their" envoy, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on August 7 in nationally televised comments.

At the same time, Islamabad released a statement declaring that Pakistan will suspend trade with India as part of its downgrading of diplomatic relations and that it will take the matter to the UN Security Council.

The Indian-administered portion of Muslim-majority Kashmir remains under an indefinite security lockdown after New Delhi lawmakers on August 6 stripped statehood from the region and the government revoked its special autonomy.

Mobile-phone and Internet services are also mostly shutdown in Kashmir, leaving it cut off from most of the world.

Pakistan warned both moves by India's Hindu-nationalist-led government to diminish the volatile region's status could lead to war. Pakistani activists claim India's latest move is an attempt by New Delhi to move non-Kashmiris into the disputed region, altering its demographics and character.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had spoken to his Indian counterpart and expressed concerns about the situation in Kashmir.

The August 5 revocation means that India's Jammu and Kashmir will be largely run by the central government, as territorial autonomy has largely vanished. Both states will become a union territory and the third state of Ladakh will become a union territory.

The Indian national flag will replace the flags of Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to use "every forum" to force New Delhi reverse its decisions.

Khan directed that all diplomatic channels be activated to expose the "brutal Indian racist regime and human rights violations," according to a tweet by the government press department.

Earlier, Pakistani Army chief General Qamar Bajwa said the military would "go to any extent" to support the people of Kashmir in their "just struggle."

There is a long-running insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir, which is divided between the two neighbors.

India and Pakistan both claim the region in its entirety, but rule it in part.

The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two of the three wars since their 1947 independence from British rule over Kashmir.

More than half a million Indian soldiers are stationed in Kashmir and there are near-daily demonstrations against Indian control.

With reporting by AFP, Al-Jazeera, Reuters, and AP

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