US calls for ‘rapid action’ in Kashmir
India moved in August to nullify Article 370 of the Constitution, which conferred special status on Jammu and Kashmir, and decided to bifurcate the state into two union territories -- J&K and Ladakh.Updated: Sep 28, 2019 00:34 IST
The US has called on India to take “rapid action” to lift restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir, release detained people and begin a political dialogue in the region, even as it asked Pakistan to make serious efforts to crack down on groups responsible for cross-border terror.
Briefing reporters on President Donald Trump’s meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan on the margins of the UN General Assembly meetings, the US administration’s point-person for South Asia, Alice Wells, said the world will benefit from “reduced tensions and increased dialogue between the two countries”.
“As President Trump emphasised, Prime Minister Modi made a commitment that the recent changes to the status of Kashmir will improve the lives of the Kashmiri people, and we look to him to uphold this promise,” said Wells, who made several references to India delivering on pledges to ease restrictions in Kashmir and resume political engagement.
India moved in August to nullify Article 370 of the Constitution, which conferred special status on Jammu and Kashmir, and decided to bifurcate the state into two union territories -- J&K and Ladakh. Restrictions on public movement and telecommunications imposed in the region have since been eased, but remain in force in some parts Many mainstream and separatist politicians are under detention..
Modi laid out a plan for returning Kashmir to normalcy after the August 5 decision to revoke the state’s special status and the US is interested in the “next steps in engagement” and hopes “to see rapid action in the lifting of the restrictions and in the release of those who have been detained”, she added.
While noting Khan’s concerns on the Kashmir issue, Wells made it clear the lowering of rhetoric would be welcome and Pakistan should show the “same level of concern...about Muslims who are being detained in western China, literally in concentration (camp) -like conditions”.
“And so being concerned about the human rights of Muslims does extend more broadly than Kashmir, and you’ve seen the administration very involved here during the UN General Assembly and trying to shine a light on the horrific conditions that continue to exist for Muslims throughout China,” Wells said, in an apparent reference to Khan’s silence on the treatment of Uyghurs by Pakistan’s close ally China.
Creating conditions for a constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan will hinge on Pakistan’s seriousness of effort in preventing groups engaging in cross-border infiltration, implementing the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) action plan on terror financing, and prosecuting UN-designated terrorists such as Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed and Jaish-e-Mohammed head Masood Azhar, she said.
Wells also brought up the US president’s willingness to “mediate if asked by both parties” but noted Modi made it clear he was not seeking mediation.
She said annual US trade with Pakistan was “quite modest” at just $6.6 billion, compared to a robust trade relationship with India totalling $142 billion in goods and services last year. The region’s stability and economic growth has been “unnaturally constrained” because of bilateral tensions and the benefits of improved ties are obvious, she added.
Referring to Modi’s commitment to increased economic growth and the well-being of the Kashmiris, Wells said: “That’s also obviously going to require there to be a normalised political environment and the involvement and engagement of the residents of Kashmir.”
First Published: Sep 27, 2019 23:57 IST