A top American diplomat on Friday praised India’s decision to roll back internet restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir, but sought the release of detained political leaders, PTI reported.
“On Jammu and Kashmir, I was pleased to see some incremental steps, including the partial return of internet service in Kashmir,” acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells told reporters in Washington. Wells recently returned to the US after attending the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi earlier this month.
2G mobile internet and broadband services will be restored in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, nearly six months after they were snapped following the abrogation of Article 370 in August. But, there will be some restrictions – internet will be limited to “whitelisted” websites and social media platforms will not be accessible.
“We also continue to urge the government to permit regular access by our diplomats, and to move swiftly to release those political leaders detained without charge,” Wells said, adding that the visit by foreign dignitaries to the Valley earlier this month was “a useful step”.
Twenty-one leaders of various parties in Kashmir are still in detention at the MLA hostel. This excludes three former chief ministers of the state – National Conference President Farooq Abdullah, whose detention under the Public Safety Act was extended by three months on December 15, his son Omar Abdullah, and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti.
Farooq Abdullah is confined to his Gupkar Road residence in Srinagar. Omar Abdullah is at Hari Niwas, while Mehbooba Mufti was initially lodged at Cheshmashahi hut, but was later shifted to a government accommodation. The number of people still under house arrest is not clear.
The government had earlier in January invited envoys of 16 countries, including the US, to visit Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, to understand the situation there. In October, around two dozen members of parliament from the European Union were taken to Kashmir on a highly orchestrated tour. Before that the MPs met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India moving away from passive foreign policy
Wells also said that India’s broadening strategic horizons over the past two decades has resulted in a shift from “a passive foreign policy to one that advances Indian interests more vigorously”.
“Whether it’s in our growing maritime and naval cooperation, the Quad, India’s Act East Policy, there’s virtually no daylight in our approaches to the Indo-Pacific,” she said.
Wells added that her New Delhi trip was focused on building diplomatic, trade and defence ties. “The visit also offered an opportunity to hear more regarding developments with India’s Citizenship Amendment Act, which is undergoing, I would say, a vigorous democratic scrutiny, whether it’s in streets, by the political opposition, media, or the courts,” Wells said. “We continue to underscore the importance of the principle of equal protection under the law.”