Concerned over restrictions in Kashmir: US Congressmen write to Jaishankar

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One year after the abrogation of semi-autonomous status of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, the leadership of United States Congress mentioned in a letter that the situation in the region has not returned to normalcy.

Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), Democrat Eliot Engel and Ranking Member Micheal McKaul highlighted their concerns over J-K in a letter dated August 5 and addressed to External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, The Hindu reported.

“We acknowledge the ongoing serious security and counterterrorism concerns in the region and look forward to working with your government to address these concerns while upholding our shared commitments to the democratic values and freedoms on which our countries’ bond was built,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter.

Since the abrogation, U.S. lawmakers have discussed India’s prolonged restrictions on Kashmir. According to a congressional staffer, “The August 5 letter demonstrates that support for the relationship remains bipartisan and contrary to thoughts in certain quarters, concerns about religious pluralism in India is also bipartisan.”

The letter also brought forward the larger context of the bipartisan support for the U.S.- India relationship.
“It is because of our support for the bilateral relationship that we note with concern that conditions in Jammu and Kashmir have not normalized one year after India’s repeal of Article 370 and the establishment of Jammu and Kashmir as a Union Territory,” wrote the Congressmen.

The letter read that India – U.S. support is more important because of China aggression.
“This closer relationship is all the more important as India faces aggression from China along your shared border, which is part of the Chinese government’s consistent pattern of unlawful and belligerent territorial aggression across the Indo-Pacific. The United States will remain steadfast in support of India’s efforts to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, the letter notes.

Ever since Article 370 was abrogated last year, U.S. lawmakers have remarked on and discussed India’s prolonged restrictions in Kashmir. India became the main focus of a human rights hearing by a subcommittee of HFAC last October – an event that rankled the government.

While a significant majority of those adopting a more critical stance towards India’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir were Democrats, some Republicans had also expressed concern. Wednesday’s letter was a demonstration that bipartisanship applies not just to support for the India U.S. relationship but also to concerns about India.

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