Two American lawmakers have written to India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, saying that a “close partnership” between New Delhi and Washington assumes significance in the background of Chinese aggression.

“As Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi said in February of this year, our ties ‘are no longer just another partnership’,” said the letter signed by Eliot Engel, chairperson of the United States House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and Michael T McCaul, its ranking member. “It is a far greater and closer relationship.”

The lawmakers said that this close relationship is even more important given the aggression India faces from China, which they called the Chinese government’s “consistent pattern of unlawful and belligerent territorial aggression across the Indo-Pacific”.

The legislators were referring to a violent clash between Indian and Chinese troops at Galwan Valley in Ladakh, along the Line of Actual Control on June 15. At least 20 Indian soldiers and an unidentified number of their Chinese counterparts were killed in the clash. The Indian and Chinese militaries are still in negotiations to defuse the situation.

Jammu and Kashmir

However, the legislators raised concerns about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. “As champions of the US-India relationship, we have been delighted to see our countries’ close cooperation on issues from defense to climate change,” Engel and McCaul wrote. “It is because of our support for the bilateral relationship that we note with concern that conditions in Jammu and Kashmir have not normalised one year after India’s repeal of Article 370 and the establishment of Jammu and Kashmir as a Union Territory.”

Engel and McCaul said they realise that India has serious security and counterterrorism interests in the region. They said the United States will work with India to address these concerns, “while upholding our shared commitments to the democratic values and freedoms on which our countries’ bond was built”.

August 5 was the first anniversary of the abrogation of special status for Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Ahead of the date, India imposed a curfew in the whole of Kashmir, citing intelligence reports about possible violent protests by separatists and Pakistan-backed groups.

While Pakistan has attempted to internationalise the problem, India maintains that Kashmir is its internal matter. Pakistan on Tuesday released a new map, showing Jammu and Kashmir and Junagadh in Gujarat as part of its own territory. On Wednesday, China claimed that India’s unilateral changes to the status quo in Kashmir were “illegal and invalid”.