India takes steps to restore normalcy in Kashmir: US

HT NEWS NETWORK

Washington, March 3: Washington- The Indian government has taken some steps to restore normalcy in Kashmir, a senior US diplomat has told American lawmakers, while asserting that the Joe Biden administration is keeping a close eye on the security situation, including militant threats in the region.

The Indian Parliament had revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, bifurcating the state into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019.

We do see the Indian government taking some steps to restore normalcy. Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) had an outreach to a range of Kashmiri Indian politicians, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Donald Lu told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism during a hearing on India US relationship on Wednesday.

Of late there have been numerous visits by several Cabinet ministers to Kashmir. Mobile phone connections have also been restored, he said, while noting that the US is keeping a close eye on the security situation, including militant threats.

The cross-border insurgency has really gone down over two years, Lu said, adding that he has been in meetings with Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa in Pakistan in which they have taken credit for closing off their border for militant groups.

India continues to report infiltration by militants into Jammu and Kashmir, although rates of infiltration have reduced markedly over the past two years. Since the 2019 Pulwama attack which killed 40 Indian security officials and under pressure from the international community, Pakistan has taken positive steps to address cross-border militancy, he said.

Kashmir remains a thorny issue in Indo-Pak ties. Pakistan has maintained that the international community's intervention is needed to solve this contentious issue.

India has always said that Jammu and Kashmir is bilateral issue. India has also asserted that Jammu and Kashmir was, is and shall forever remain an integral part of the country.

The US continues to encourage Pakistan to prosecute leaders of militant outfits, Lu said.

There are challenges to the human rights situation in Kashmir, he noted. We have not seen the holding of Legislative Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. We have not seen the free movement of journalists. We have seen the detention in fact of some prominent journalists in the Kashmir Valley, he said.

We believe all Kashmiri’s deserve the right to live in dignity, enjoy the protections afforded to them by the Indian Constitution. We look forward to continuing to encourage India to fulfil those commitments, Lu added.

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