NEW DELHI :
India on Thursday termed as “regrettable" recent remarks and comments by some members of the US Congress expressing concern over certain restrictions in Kashmir that have been in place since August when New Delhi revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution conferring special status on the region.
“We have seen reports on the testimonies by Members of the Congress at the hearing at House Foreign Affairs on Human Rights on South Asia. It is regrettable that a few Members of the US Congress used a Congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia to question the measures taken recently to safeguard life, peace and security in Kashmir," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told reporters.
“These comments display a very limited understanding of India’s history, her pluralistic society, constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental rights for all Indian citizens and the robust institutions operating in the world’s largest democracy. The hearing should have been used to ascertain the facts on state-sponsored, cross-border terrorism afflicting Kashmir which endangers the most fundamental of human rights, namely the right to life. The Government remains responsible for and responsive to the safety and well-being of its citizens," Kumar said.
The remarks follow a group of US lawmakers including Ilhan Omar, Ted Yoho, Abigail Spanberger, and Mike Fitzpatrick expressing concern over the human rights situation in Kashmir and urging India to take steps to lift restrictions on movement of people, communications, and detention of political leaders at a hearing titled “Human Rights in South Asia" in Washington. "I recognise that the situation is complex. I recognise that Pakistan is not without its share of responsibility," Pramila Jaypal, the first Indian-American member of the US House of Representatives was quoted as saying by PTI. “But India as the world's largest democracy and a critical ally for the US needs to uphold its commitment to human rights," she said.
The remarks come after a major effort by Pakistan to engage the US as a mediator, especially after India scrapped Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump caused a stir when he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate between India and Pakistan and offered to do so. The White House later back-pedalled on the offer.
On behalf of the US administration, State Department’s assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells and assistant secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Robert Destro testified before the committee.
On Wells’ and Destro’s comments expressing concern over the situation in Kashmir, Kumar said: “We are regularly updating key members of the US government departments on this matter, including on our concerns over revival of cross-border terrorism by Pakistan. We have urged our interlocutors to bear in mind the aspect of cross-border terrorism in forming an opinion on the situation. We take note of statements by Administration officials, including by Ambassador Alice Wells that Pakistan needs to do much more in curbing terrorism on its territory in a credible, verifiable and irreversible manner." He was referring Wells saying that the “chief obstacle" to bilateral talks between India and Pakistan was Islamabad’s continued support to terrorists who engage in cross-border terrorism.