Associated Press KRITHIKA VARAGUR
NEW DELHI (AP) — The Trump administration remains concerned about the ongoing crackdown in India-administered Kashmir, the restive Himalayan region stripped of its special constitutional status in August, but supports India’s development “objectives” there, a U.S. diplomat said in a statement Tuesday ahead of a congressional hearing in Washington.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells said the U.S. State Department has encouraged India to restore phone and internet access and release detainees in the region. After India’s Parliament voted to remove a constitutional provision that gave Kashmiris semi-autonomy and a right to their own constitution, flag and land, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government imposed a security lockdown and communications blackout. Thousands of people were detained.
Some phone connectivity has been restored, but internet services remain down.
The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation is meeting Tuesday on human rights in South Asia. The subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California, has said the focus will be on Kashmir, where life has been disrupted for nearly 8 million people.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have expressed concern about human rights in Kashmir in recent months. Earlier this month, Democratic Sen. Chris van Hollen of Maryland told reporters in New Delhi that he and other members of a U.S. delegation to India were not blocked by the Indian government from visiting Kashmir.
In the statement, Wells also said that direct dialogue between India and Pakistan held the most potential for reducing regional tensions. The archrival countries each administer a portion of Kashmir, but both claim the region in its entirety,
Wells called out Pakistan for its “continued support of extremist groups that engage in cross-border terrorism.”
In July, President Donald Trump said that he offered to mediate India-Pakistan talks on Kashmir. India’s foreign minister has repeatedly denied the claim.
“The tenor of the Kashmir discussion in the U.S. is something that India will be looking at closely,” said Brahma Chellaney, a professor at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research.
The House hearing on Tuesday will also take up a citizen registry effort in northeast India that has placed the legal status of about 2 million people in limbo, as well as human rights issues in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, according to Sherman’s office.