At least 12 Canadians are in the India-controlled portion of Kashmir that has been the target of a security clampdown for more than a week, according to Global Affairs Canada.
Jammu and Kashmir, the portion of Kashmir that India administers, has been under an increased military presence, a curfew and near-total communications blackout, leaving residents in the dark about what’s been happening in their neighbourhood, let alone their region.
“Global Affairs Canada advises Canadians to avoid all travel to the states of Jammu and Kashmir, due to sporadic terrorist activity and violent demonstrations,” Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Barbara Harvey said in an e-mail. “If Canadians are in Jammu and Kashmir, they should monitor local news, follow the instructions of local authorities."
Now in its second week, the communications blackout in Jammu and Kashmir means residents have been without regular access to internet, mobile or landline connections. The Globe and Mail previously reported that members of the Kashmiri community in Canada have been largely without contact with their loved ones since communications were suspended.
Kashmir has been disputed territory since the Partition of India in 1947, with Pakistan, India and China all laying claim to portions of the region. Although communication has been shut down in the region in the past, this time the blackout was followed by changes to the Indian Constitution that, among other things, prevents Kashmir from making its own laws.
Ms. Harvey said Tuesday afternoon that 12 Canadians in Jammu and Kashmir had signed up for Registration of Canadians Abroad, a federal service that sends notifications to travelling Canadians in case of any emergencies.
“As registration is voluntary, this is not necessarily a complete picture of Canadians in the region,” she wrote.
Earlier on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland issued a statement saying Canada was monitoring the situation.
“Canada is concerned about the risk of escalation, infringements on civil rights and reports of detentions,” the statement said. “We call on all parties to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control and in the region.” The Line of Control refers to the de facto border between the Pakistani and Indian-controlled regions of Kashmir.
Ms. Harvey said Canadians needing urgent consular aid should contact the High Commission of Canada in New Delhi or the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The federal government has issued travel advisories cautioning Canadians to “avoid all travel” to Jammu and Kashmir, as well as to the Pakistan-controlled parts of the region, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. The government notes that the risks are especially great on local holidays, including Eid and India’s Independence Day, which is on Thursday.