New Delhi, Oct 23, 2019: A group of US lawmakers today expressed concern about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, pointing to the detention of local political leaders and activists and the internet blackout. The US had earlier agreed that the government’s move in Jammu and Kashmir was an internal matter of India. Some members also had strong words for Pakistan, saying it should take action against terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, NDTV reported.
At a hearing on human rights in South Asia held by a Congressional subcommittee in Washington, Alice Wells, the Acting US Assistant Secretary of State, welcomed the Centre’s actions to normalise the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
"While the Department supports the development objectives of India’s move to abrogate Article 370, we remain concerned about the situation in the Kashmir Valley... It has not returned to normal," she said.
The Department, she said, has "raised concerns with the Indian government regarding the detentions of local residents and political leaders, including three former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir," she said. "We have urged Indian authorities to respect human rights and restore full access to services, including internet and mobile networks."
But while supporting the Kashmiris’ right to hold peaceful protests, she said the US condemns the actions of terrorists who undermine dialogue by using violence and fear. The US was "concerned about reports of local and foreign militants attempting to intimidate local residents and business owners in order to stymie normal economic activity".
In this context, Ms Wells also had strong words about Pakistan. "Pakistan’s harboring of terrorist groups like Lashkar-e- Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which seek to foment violence across the Line of Control, is destabilizing, and Pakistani authorities remain accountable for their actions," she said.
"We believe that direct dialogue between India and Pakistan, as outlined in the 1972 Simla Agreement, holds the most potential for reducing tensions," she added.
Other lawmakers too, focussed on the situation in Kashmir and expressed similar concerns.
"I recognise that the situation is complex. I recognise that Pakistan is not without its share of responsibility," Pramila Jaypal, the first Indian-American member of the US House of Representatives was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India. But India as the world’s largest democracy and a critical ally for the US, needs to uphold its commitment to human rights," she said, reported PTI.
Lawmakers Ted Yoho, Abigail Spanberger and Mike Fitzpatrick also expressed concern over the human rights situation in Kashmir and urged India to take steps to lift restrictions on movement of people, communication restrictions and detention of political leaders, reported PTI.
US President Donald Trump has already made several offers to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. New Delhi, however, had given a firm no with a reminder that Kashmir was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and the current changes were a move to bring development to the state where terrorism had flourished.
Last month, during PM Modi’s visit to the US, President Trump said the Prime Minister had sent a "very loud" message to Pakistan regarding terror. "I am sure he will be able to handle that situation," he added.