Govt may ease more curbs in J&K before PM goes to US

Four more US lawmakers express concern over human rights situation in Kashmir

With four more United States lawmakers joining the clamour for easing restrictions in J&K, New Delhi is considering doing more to restore normalcy in what was recently turned into a Union Territory.

The Government may ease more restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's forthcoming visit to Houston and New York to blunt criticism against India in the United States.

With four more United States lawmakers joining the clamour for easing restrictions in J&K, New Delhi is considering doing more to restore normalcy in what was recently turned into a Union Territory. The Embassy of India in Washington D.C. is reaching out to the US lawmakers to explain the rationale of Modi Government's August 5 decisions on J&K and the steps taken recently to ease restrictions. A section in the government, however, is of the view that more such steps before Prime Minister's visit to the US would help foil Pakistan's campaign against India.

Four US senators – two Republicans and two Democrats – wrote to American President Donald Trump, expressing concern over the human rights situation in J&K and urging him to nudge New Delhi to ease restrictions, lift communication blackout and set free political leaders and activists detained in the wake of Modi Government's decision to strip the state of its special status and to reorganize it into two Union Territories.

Senators Chris Van Hollen, Todd Young, Ben Cardin and Lindsay G Graham noted that situation for people of J&K was turning more difficult with each passing day. They also asked Pakistan to stop exporting terror to India and stop destabilise Kashmir.

American Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal earlier expressed concern over the situation in J&K.

New Delhi took note of the fact that not many in US government, legislature and media were swayed by Pakistan's propaganda against India. “Our position that the decisions on J&K were internal affairs of India has been broadly appreciated in the US,” a senior official told the DH in New Delhi. “The criticism by the media and the concerns expressed by Trump Administration as well as the lawmakers were mostly limited on the restrictions and detentions.”

Prime Minister will visit New York and Houston from September 21 to 27. He will take part in the United Nations Climate Action Summit and address the United Nations General Assembly in New York. He will also address a conclave of Indian-American community in Houston.

New Delhi has been trying to drive home the point, not only in the US, but also around the world, that 92% of the area in J&K now have no restriction with only areas under 11 of the total 199 police stations still having some daytime restrictions.

“We are moving cautiously. We may have to do more for restoring normalcy in J&K over the next few days, of course if the situation permits,” said the official. “We cannot also lower our guards. Pakistan is trying to send in terrorists and destabilize the situation in J&K by stoking violence and forcing our security personnel to react so that it could substantiate its false propaganda against India”.

Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said that altogether 20339 schools were now open and classes were being conducted. “Land-line telephone communication has been restored. All telephone exchanges are operational. Mobile connectivity has been restored in 13 of the 22 districts,” he said. “Mobile connectivity is being restored in the remaining nine districts gradually, keeping in mind the threat posed by terrorist organisations in using mobile connectivity to organise terror actions,” added Kumar.

Though a meeting with Trump has not yet been finalized, Modi is likely to meet a number of other foreign leaders in New York.

The UN General Assembly is likely to witness a war of words between India and Pakistan on J&K on September 27, when both Modi and the neighbouring country's Prime Minister Imran Khan are expected to address it. Modi is expected to argue that New Delhi's decisions were all aimed at safeguarding democracy and ensuring economic development and prosperity for the people of J&K. He is also expected to tear into Pakistan's Government and its Army for sponsoring cross-border terrorism against India.

Khan is expected to argue that New Delhi's recent decisions were illegal because they sought to alter the status of what the UN Security Council recognized as a “disputed territory”.

While a Modi-Khan showdown at the UN General Assembly is inevitable, New Delhi is keen to make it sure that the issue of J&K does not overshadow Prime Minister's visit to the US.

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