US urges 'rapid easing' of India's restrictions on Kashmir

US urges 'rapid easing' of India's restrictions on Kashmir
The US has expressed 'concern' over India's crackdown on Kashmir and said President Donald Trump is willing to 'mediate' between Pakistan and India over the issue.
3 min read
27 September, 2019
India-administered Kashmir has seen widespread arrests [Getty]

The United States has urged India to quickly ease restrictions imposed on Kashmir after the revocation of its semi-autonomous status, a senior official said on Thursday after President Donald Trump met the leaders of India and Pakistan.

"We hope to see rapid action - the lifting of the restrictions and the release of those who have been detained," Alice Wells, the top State Department official for South Asia, told reporters.

She also said that Trump "is willing to mediate if asked by both parties", noting however that New Delhi has long rejected any outside role.

"The United States is concerned by widespread detentions, including those of politicians and business leaders, and the restrictions on the residents of Jammu and Kashmir," she said.

"We look forward to the Indian government's resumption of political engagement with local leaders and the scheduling of the promised elections at the earliest opportunity," she said.

India's right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi in August revoked the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, fulfilling a long-held goal of his Hindu nationalist movement.

Indian authorities subsequently detained a wide range of political leaders and cut off cellular and internet service for ordinary people in much of the Himalayan region.

Wells said the US has raised concerns on Kashmir "at the highest levels", without saying if Trump had directly brought up Kashmir with Modi.

Read more: 'Everyone is under watch': Kashmir faces media blackout amid Indian government crackdown

The US president on Sunday joined his Indian counterpart in a joint rally of more than 50,000 Indian-Americans in Houston, with the two heaping praise on each other.

With Trump watching in the front row and listening to the translation, Modi made clear reference to rival Pakistan, which controls part of Kashmir and has sought to rally international attention over the Himalayan territory.

Modi said he was seeking equal status and development for Kashmir, adding that his actions were "causing discomfort to some people unable to manage their own country" and who "nurture terrorism."

"These people have put their hatred of India at the centre of their political agenda," Modi said.

Trump also met this week with Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan, which controls part of Kashmir, to hear his concerns on the region which has long been a flashpoint for conflict between India and Pakistan.

Kashmir, split between the two countries since 1947, has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between them.

The Pakistani premier earlier this month warned his citizens against going to "fight jihad" in Kashmir.

"If someone from Pakistan goes to India to fight... he will be the first to do an injustice to Kashmiris, he will be the enemy of Kashmiris," Khan said during a speech in Torkham, on the border with Afghanistan.

"They need an excuse," he said of Indian troops. "It will provide them an excuse for torture and barbarism."

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