US senators urge India to end occupied Kashmir 'humanitarian crisis'

Foreign relations committee report calls on India to lift curfew, free detainees

News Desk October 05, 2019
Senator Chris Van Hollen speaks to reporters as he arrives for a vote on Capitol Hill. Photo: Reuters/FILE

In a big diplomatic success for Pakistan, American lawmakers, for the first time ever, took legislative actions against India, expressing concern over “the current humanitarian crisis” in Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK), media reports said on Saturday.

In its report ahead of the annual Foreign Appropriations Act for 2020, the powerful US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations asked the Indian government to lift its lockdown and curfew in occupied territories and release the detainees.

The report, submitted to the Senate by Lindsey Graham, “notes with concern the current humanitarian crisis in Kashmir and calls on the Government of India to fully restore telecommunications and Internet services; lift its lockdown and curfew; and release individuals detained pursuant to the Government’s revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution”.

Senator Chris Van Hollen, who visited Delhi this week as a part of a congressional delegation that discussed the occupied Kashmir situation, proposed an amendment to the report, which was accepted unanimously by the bipartisan committee.

“The amendment is a strong expression of concern by the Senate about the situation in Kashmir,” Van Hollen told media. “[It] sends the signal that we are closely monitoring the human rights situation there, and would like to see the government of India take those concerns seriously.”

The document was submitted on September 26, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was still in the US. Van Hollen said he had “hoped to share his concerns privately” with Modi, but had not been able to meet him.

Van Hollen is one of nearly 50 members of a bipartisan group of US senators, who have urged President Donald Trump to immediately intervene and pursue Modi to lift curfew and end communication blockade in the occupied valley.

During his trip to India, according to Washington Post, Senator Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, said he had asked India to allow him to go to occupied Kashmir to personally see the reality on the ground, but he was denied permission by the Modi government.

“If the Indian government has nothing to hide, they should not worry about people visiting Kashmir and witnessing the situation with their own eyes,” he said. “I think this is a moment where transparency is important.”

The US senators’ call is seen as a diplomatic success for Pakistan which had been trying to internationalise the Kashmir dispute as well as the plight of Kashmiris people since India revoked the region’s special status in August.

In another success of Islamabad’s diplomacy and further dent to India’s stance on Kashmir, Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren said on Saturday that the right of the Kashmiri people must be respected.

“The US-India partnership has always been rooted in our shared democratic values. I'm concerned about recent events in Kashmir, including a continued communications blackout and other restrictions. The rights of the people of Kashmir must be respected,” Warren tweeted.

On the microblogging website, she posted a report on occupied Kashmir, titled ‘Two months of misery in Indian Kashmir’. The report said Kashmiris were livid about India's August 5 move, with regular demonstrations, while businesses refusing to open and children were kept out of schools.


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