Expressing concern over the human rights situation in Kashmir, a group of influential US lawmakers has urged President Donald Trump to press India to lift the communication blackout in the Valley and release the people detained after the abrogation of Article 370. In a letter addressed to Trump, Senators Chris Van Hollen, Todd Young, Ben Cardin and Lindsay Graham said with each passing day, the situation for the people of Kashmir becomes “increasingly difficult”. “Therefore, we ask that you call upon Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi to fully restore telecommunications and internet services, lift the lockdown and curfew, and release Kashmiris detained pursuant to India’s revocation of Article 370,” stated the letter, a copy of which was released to the press.
Restrictions were imposed in Kashmir after India on August 5 abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, ending the State’s special status and bifurcated it into Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Another US Senator Bob Casey said India’s changes to the status of Jammu and Kashmir were a “drastic shift” from decades of precedent and policy which increases the potential for escalated conflict between India and Pakistan, and raises serious concerns about the safety and security of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
“I am committed to promoting democracy, human rights and self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Accordingly, both India and Pakistan should refrain from incendiary actions that undermine security and human rights in the region,” Casey said.
“The Trump administration’s failure to appoint a US Ambassador to Pakistan or an Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs has left the United States unprepared and ill-equipped to engage meaningfully to ensure the rights and safety of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Casey said.
The senators in their letter also said Pakistan must also dismantle its safe havens for militant groups operating on its soil – including those targeting India – and refrain from taking any steps that could further destabilise Kashmir. “The United States has a vital role to play in facilitating a resolution to this humanitarian crisis, and we urge you to act swiftly. Once the urgent humanitarian situation has been addressed, we hope the US can play a constructive role in helping resolve the underlying disputes between the two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan,” they wrote.
The situation in Kashmir has grave implications for democracy, human rights and regional stability, they said. “We believe that US engagement with India will be critical in providing relief for all of the people of Kashmir,” the lawmakers said. In another statement, Congressman Eric Swalwell said the strife in Kashmir was not just about India and Pakistan, but about an issue that has worldwide military, economic and moral consequences.
“The United States must show patient diplomacy to de-escalate the rhetoric and ensure these two nuclear powers do not reach a point of no return,” he said. “This can be progressively achieved beginning with measures such as the immediate restoration of the ability for Kashmiris to communicate with their families and by working toward re-establishment of democratic governance,” Swalwell said.
Asserting that the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”, India has defended imposition of restrictions in the Kashmir Valley on the grounds that they were put to prevent Pakistan from creating more mischief through proxies and terrorists.―Financial Express