In another tense turn following the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan “tells India to recall envoy, puts trade on hold,” reports The Indian Express. This story gets top billing on the front pages of most newspapers. “Downgrading ties: Pak tests Kashmir waters, India holds response,” adds Express, “Pakistan expels Indian envoy, suspends bilateral trade,” headlines The Hindu. After one ploughs through the three pages of advertisements in Hindustan Times and The Times of India, comes this: “Pak goes on diplomatic offensive over Art 370” (HT) and “Pakistan expels Indian envoy, suspends all bilateral trade” (TOI).
Speculating on the reasons for India’s lack of response, Express says “it did not want to fall for what it considers bait” and a “desperate bid by Islamabad to internationalise the issue.” HT calls Pakistan’s “diplomatic offence”, a “slew of retaliatory actions in response to India’s decision to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status.”
Hindu reports that Pakistan will “observe August 14, its Independence Day, in solidarity with brave Kashmiris and August 15 as a Black Day.” It will “close a corridor in its airspace” resulting in an “additional 12 minutes of flying time,” tells Hindu. TOI also hypothesises, “the actions seem intended to assure domestic audiences, including anti-India terror groups, which have for long been assured of Pakistan’s support for the Kashmir cause.”
National dailies also report on the Valley. HT describes an “eerie silence hung over Srinagar” and “some sporadic clashes in some parts of Kashmir.” NSA Ajit Doval was also snapped sharing a meal with Kashmiri residents . Hindu highlights that Jammu residents have been “welcoming the Modi government’s move.” Meanwhile, TOI goes on a different trajectory, “sources indicate” that “some relaxation in curfew-like restrictions” may be announced ahead of Friday prayers, “internet services via mobile and broadband are unlikely to be restored.” TOI explains the ‘apparent misuse of these services’, these services are “prone to being used for rumour mongering and mobilising locals for stone-pelting protests by separatists.” It goes on to report that there have been some incidents of stone-pelting with groups of four to five “miscreants.”
RBI rate cut
Also making news today is RBI’s fourth rate cut this year. RBI “strives to boost corporate investment and consumer spending to accelerate stubbornly slow economic growth,” writes HT. It also mentions that a “cut of 35 basis points in the repurchase, or repo, rate at which the central bank lends funds to commercial banks, took the cumulative reduction since February to 1.1 percentage point.”
Express has an exclusive on “4 dead as thousands rush across Assam for fresh NRC hearings.”. On Monday, “Indian Express had reported that thousands in lower Assam districts received notices from NRC authorities sassing them to appear at new hearings in far-off towns between” 5 August and 7 August. Express says that this “fresh set of orders” has “triggered panic as people boarded buses, hire SUVs” to “reach towns like Jorhat, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Golaghat.” This panic struck travel has resulted in the death of four people across the state.
Award for Abhinandan? HT reports that the government “will, as it was expected to” announce “military decorations for Wing Commander Abhinandan Vardhaman for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 during a dogfight over the Line of Control on 27th February” this year. He is likely to be awarded a “Vir Chakra for his exploits.” HT is quick to note that it was the “first to report on April 20” that Vardhaman could get “gallantry awards.”
Newspapers today are packed with pictures of “Haryana ki Beti” (Express) Sushma Swaraj’s funeral on Wednesday. Tributes poured in from politicians, diplomatic community, citizens alike.
Express: The newspaper pays tribute to former external affairs minister and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj in ‘A Dear Leader’. It traces Swaraj’s journey as a bold female representative “in a party of patriarchal features and conservative frameworks.” It credits her with transforming the foreign ministry, often seen as “haughty and aloof”, into one that ordinary citizens could approach even via social media. At one point, she was the most prominent leader in the BJP “before Narendra Modi made his presence felt on the national stage”, it writes. The dignity and poise with which Swaraj occupied office allowed her to connect and cooperate across party lines and political divides, a rarity in these “polarised times”, writes Express.
The Hindu: In ‘RBI’s Goldilocks cut’, the newspaper views the RBI’s latest repo rate cut, the fourth this year, as a cause for concern. While the cut was expected, it was estimated to be either a 25 or 50 basis points instead of the current 35. However, transmission by banks to lenders, which currently stands at “poor” 29 basic points, continues to be inhibited due to excess liquidity floating around in the market. “There is reason to hope that transmission from hereon would be quicker”, it writes. The recent cut signifies that the RBI “is willing to do the heavy lifting” but its efforts may go in vain if the government does not do its bit in reviving economic growth.
The day was dominated by homage to and the last rites of former Union Minister and senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj who died Tuesday. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s street food interaction with locals in Shopian took over in the late afternoon and by evening, Pakistan’s downgrade of diplomatic relations with India became `Breaking News’.
NDTV India: Anchor Sanket Upadhyay lauded Swaraj’s achievements – first woman chief minister of Delhi, first woman external affairs minister. He also spoke to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.
Birla said, “She had a very strong personality. When I got the chance to work with her, she was the external affairs minister. She made sure she listened to everyone’s opinion, even if it opposed hers. She was a fantastic woman who left her mark on India and its standing at the international level.”
Upadhyay observed that “She is the first one to make the external affairs ministry accessible to the common man. Videsh mantralay ko janta mantralay bana diya.”
ABP News: ‘A Politician Of Many Firsts, Leaves Behind A Void’ said ABP news about Swaraj. Former diplomat Sheelkant Sharma felt she was “the top politician of her generation. Her personality, experience, and thinking were so clear. She was a diplomat of diplomats.”
Vivek Katju, also a former diplomat said, “I knew her for really long. Nobody can defend India the way she did. She, in fact, always reminded me of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.”
“She went to Pakistan and spoke on Pakistan TV and explained fearlessly and elegantly… the situation between the two countries. That’s the kind of confidence she had,” added J.K. Tripathi, another former diplomat.
CNN News 18: On `Face Off’, anchor Zakka Jacob turned to Pakistan’s response to the Indian government’s move on J&K.
Maj Gen (retd) Rajesh Arya said Pakistan’s sole reason for survival has been its anti-India stance. “Their centre of gravity is anti-India and pro-Kashmir. Article 370 had nothing to do with Pakistan.”
Qamar Cheema, a strategic & political analyst from Pakistan disagreed: “Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. It is a disputed territory, and you can’t take any unilateral decision on it.”
“What they (Pakistan) cannot digest is that 72 hours have passed and there is nothing that they could do,” retorted Arya.
Republic: #KashmirWelcomesChange was the running hashtag on Republic as anchor Arnab Goswami showcased the video of Doval in Shopian and expressed satisfaction at the situation in Kashmir.
Smita Prakash, editor of ANI added a word of caution: “To say that everything is hunky-dory in J&K would be an exaggeration. Of course there has been no violence and that is fabulous and we appreciate the pre-planning.”
Abdul Razack Khan, political analyst pointed out that communications were suspended, hampering daily life: “Where is the internet…it is not back? Mobile phones are not working. There is no television network”.
“There is total peace and quiet in Jammu and Kashmir — it is for the first time `Field Marshall’ Mehbooba Mufti has been stopped from interfering,” insisted Maj Gen G D Bakshi (retd), a defence expert.
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