It also hoped for a “constructive conversation” between India and Pakistan.
New Delhi: The United States has again voiced concern over the “widespread detentions, including those of politicians and business leaders, and the restrictions on the residents of Jammu and Kashmir”, while making a fresh pitch for mediation by US President Donald Trump if both India and Pakistan agree to it. India has consistently rejected third party mediation. The US also said it “looked forward to the Indian government’s resumption of political engagement with local leaders and the scheduling of the promised elections (in J&K) at the earliest opportunity”, adding that it “hoped to see rapid action in the lifting of the restrictions and in the release of those who have been detained”. It also hoped for a “constructive conversation” between India and Pakistan.
Taking a dig at Pakistan and its all-weather friend China, the US said it would “like to see the same level of concern expressed (by Pakistan) about Muslims who are being detained in western China, literally in concentration-like conditions”, adding that “being concerned about the human rights of Muslims does extend more broadly than Kashmir”, and the US is “trying to shine a light on the horrific conditions that continue to exist for Muslims throughout China”.
Washington also, meanwhile, described the meeting of the foreign ministers of the US, Japan, Australia and India (known as the Quadrilateral, or Quad) as “a significant elevation of the level of our dialogue”.
At a briefing in New York, acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells said: “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... 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. 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.”
She added: “Prime Minister Modi, in August, after the actions that were taken in Kashmir, sort of laid out a plan and objectives of returning Kashmiri political life and restoration of — even of state status and engagement with a new generation of political leaders. And I think we are interested in knowing the next steps in engagement and encouraging that political dialogue to begin, in which we’ll also in the next — we hope to see rapid action in the lifting of the restrictions and in the release of those who have been detained... But right now, the focus I think has been on the return to political life and to a dialogue between the parties. This is a issue that members of Congress have raised in letters that they’ve sent to the administration and there will be — Congress has called for testimony on human rights in South Asia. So friends of India want to see the way forward.”
Ms Wells also said: “I think that what the President underscored was Prime Minister Modi’s commitment that he made — that he’s made publicly to the people of India and to the people of Kashmir... And so we would welcome steps that would lead to increased economic growth and the well-being of the Kashmiri people. That’s also obviously going to require a normalised political environment... and involvement and engagement of the residents of Kashmir.”
Making a fresh pitch for US mediation while calling upon Pakistan to act against terror, Ms Wells said: “The President (Trump) is willing to mediate if asked by both parties. We’re continuing to welcome Pakistan Prime Minister Khan’s commitment to prevent cross-border terrorism and to fulfil Pakistan’s stated commitment to combat militant and terrorist groups without distinction.”
In response to a question, she said: “I think Prime Minister Modi has made it clear his position that he’s not seeking mediation. I think what we would like to see are the conditions whereby India and Pakistan can have a constructive conversation that leads to an improvement of relations between the two nuclear powers. And obviously, that is going to hinge off ... of counter-terrorism, of Pakistan’s seriousness of effort in ensuring that groups don’t take advantage and engage in cross-border infiltration, that there are serious steps to implement the Financial Action Task Force action plan that Pakistan has committed to, and which includes the prosecution of UN-designated terrorists. So whether it’s Hafiz Saeed, who currently is in custody and under prosecution, but also leaders of Jaish-e-Mohammed, like Masood Azhar, who long have been able to exploit their presence on Pakistani soil.”