The United States on Thursday asked India for a roadmap on the restoration of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir, including the immediate release of all political detainees, PTI reported.
The Indian government had put mainstream Kashmiri politicians like National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti under house arrest after scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution, in August. Separatist leaders have also been arrested.
“We continue to press for the release of detainees for the full restoration of everyday services, but most importantly, for a roadmap for the restoration of political and economic normalcy,” Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice G Wells said.
Speaking with reporters at the US State Department, Wells added that America remained “deeply concerned” about the situation in the Kashmir Valley, where the lives of 80 lakh people have been “severely impacted”. She said that while services for 40 lakh mobile phone subscribers had been restored, internet and SMS still remain restricted.
Wells said journalists continued to face challenges in Kashmir due to the security restrictions. She said that both United States President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have repeatedly stressed in meetings with their Indian and Pakistani counterparts that a situation conducive to dialogue on Kashmir between New Delhi and Islamabad must be created.
‘Take action against terrorists,’ US tells Pakistan
Wells also impressed upon Pakistan the need to take “sustained and irreversible” steps against militants and terrorists operating from its territory. She said that terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen are “obviously the problem”.
“In this vein, we welcome [Pakistan] Prime Minister [Imran] Khan’s unambiguous statement in September that anyone who crosses from Pakistan to carry out violence in Kashmir are enemies of both Pakistan and the Kashmiri people,” Wells said. “The constructive dialogue that we’d like to see between India and Pakistan must be based on Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists in its territory.”
Meanwhile, an unidentified senior US administration official said on Thursday that President Trump was ready to mediate in the Kashmir matter, the Hindustan Times reported. “He certainly is prepared to play a mediation role, if both the countries ask,” the official said. “It has been India’s position not to seek outside mediation.”
However, India has repeatedly stressed that Kashmir is its internal matter and it does not want a third party to mediate.
The US had held a Congressional hearing on Jammu and Kashmir earlier this week. India’s Ministry of External Affairs condemned the hearing. “It is regrettable that a few members of the US Congress used the Congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia to question the measures taken recently to safeguard life, peace, and security in Kashmir,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at a press conference. “These comments display a very limited understanding of India’s history, her pluralistic society, constitutionally guaranteed freedom, fundamental rights, and the robust institutions operating in the world’s largest democracy.”
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