In a sign of growing disquiet in US congress over the situation in Kashmir, Senator and leading Democratic candidate for the presidential nomination Elizabeth Warren on Saturday expressed concerns over the continuing restrictions there, joining fellow senators and rivals Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris and other lawmakers.
The Trump administration, which was a major concern for New Delhi after the president offered to mediate the Kashmir dispute between India and Kashmir and repeated it despite a clear and unequivocal rejection, has since reverted to the default US position of letting India and Pakistan resolve it bilaterally.
But, notably, it has also continued to raise concerns about the restrictions in Kashmir and has sought “rapid action” towards normalization although as it has maintained, siding with New Delhi, the abrogation of Article 370 and the change in the constitutional status of Kashmir is an internal matter for India.
“The US-India partnership has always been rooted in our shared democratic values,” Senator Warren wrote on Twitter Saturday. “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 is a leading candidate for the party’s nomination, having surged in polls in recent weeks to overtake Senator Bernie Sanders. She is now a close second to Former Vice-President Joe Biden, trailing the frontrunner 24% to 26.2% in the RealClearPolitics aggregate of polls.
Warren’s tweet on Kashmir also came close on the heels of a Democratic senator, Chris Van Hollen, telling the Washington Post in New Delhi Friday that he had been denied permission by to visit Kashmir. “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 had said. He was among the few lawmakers External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had met during his recent visit to Washington DC.
Senator Sanders was the first of the Democratic candidates to raise the Kashmir issue, telling an annual convention of North American muslims in September, “India’s action is unacceptable” and “the communications blockade must be lifted immediately”. He had gone on to ask the Trump administration to “speak out boldly” and backed “a UN-backed peaceful resolution that respects the will of the Kashmiri people”.
Senator Harris, who is of Indian descent from her mother’s side, had raised similar concerns days later saying, “We have to remind the Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world. We are keeping a track on the situation. There is a need to intervene if the situation demands.”
Pramila Jayapal, another Indian-American lawmaker, joined 13 of her colleagues in the House of Representatives to write a joint letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the day of his address to the UNGA last mont asking for the lifting of the restrictions calling India “an important US partner”.
New Delhi has been dismissive of concerns raised by the lawmakers, arguing US lawmakers say a lot of things because “because people go to individual members of Congress . (and) what they say is not necessarily a function of their knowledge on that particular subject”.
But New Delhi remains watchful. And is keeping an eye on a congressional hearing called by a subcommittee of the House foreign affairs committee on October 22, by Brad Sherman, a Democratic lawmaker who also heads the House India caucus, to discuss Kashmir and other issues of regional interest. Alice Wells, the dead of the state department’s south and central Asia bureau is scheduled to testify in what is expected to be a contentious hearing.__Hindustan Times