Key Congressman seeks Trump’s help to visit held Kashmir

The head of a US congressional panel has asked the Trump administration to persuade India to allow US diplomats to visit and review the situation in occupied Kashmir.

Congressman Brad Sherman, who made this request in a letter to the US State Department, heads a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia. Last month, the panel held a hearing on human rights in Asia, which focused almost entirely on the situation in the India-occupied Kashmir.

The participants expressed grave concern on gross human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and questioned New Delhi’s Aug 5 decision to revoke the valley’s special status by merging it with India.

In his letter to Assistant Secretary Alice Wells, who heads the State Department’s Bureau for South and Central Asian Affairs, Mr Sherman urged her to expedite efforts for sending US diplomats to Kashmir.

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“One reason I am so concerned about the situation in Kashmir is because there is a lack of reliable information coming from the region,” he wrote.

Brad Sherman, who heads a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, writes to State Department for the purpose

Mr Sherman reminded Ms Wells in the Oct 22 hearing he also asked her if US diplomats have been able to visit Kashmir to “report on the situation on the ground since August 5”, when India annexed the occupied valley.

“In response, you said the United States has requested permission to visit Kashmir, but the Indian government has denied those requests,” Mr Sherman wrote in the letter which was released to the media on Thursday.

“I wanted to follow up with you on this point. In particular, would you like to answer three questions: Have U S diplomats been permitted to visit Kashmir since August 5, 2019? How many times has the United States officially requested permission for US diplomats to visit Kashmir since August 5, 2019? What are the reasons the Indian government has given for refusing to grant US diplomats permission to visit Kashmir?” he wrote.

Congressman Sherman noted Indian officials’ claim that they were not allowing US diplomats to visit Kashmir due to the security situation on the ground. But he pointed out that the Indian government allowed “certain, select European Union members of Parliament” to visit Kashmir in October.

“In light of this, the Indian government should (also) allow US diplomats to visit Kashmir,” he added.

At the Oct 22nd hearing, members of the House Subcommittee also requested a classified briefing from the State Department and Office of the Director of Intelligence regarding Kashmir.

“I would like to formally request that the Slate Department and Intelligence Community provide this classified briefing to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and other interested members of Congress,” Mr Sherman wrote.

“I ask that you direct your staff to work with my Subcommittee Director, Don MacDonald, to find a mutually convenient time to schedule this briefing.”

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2019