US diplomat: Kashmir human rights a concern for Washington

A Kashmiri woman walks as security personnel stand guard near a clock tower during a lockdown in central Srinagar on September 27, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

US diplomat: Kashmir human rights a concern for Washington

  • Statement comes ahead of a congressional hearing in Washington on human rights in South Asia
  • Indian government imposed security lockdown and communications blackout in Kashmir, detaining thousands, after abolishing the valley’s special status 

NEW DELHI: The Trump administration remains concerned about the ongoing crackdown in Indian-administered Kashmir, the restive Himalayan region stripped of its special constitutional status in August, but supports India’s development “objectives” there, a US diplomat said in a statement Tuesday ahead of a congressional hearing in Washington.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells said the US State Department has encouraged India to restore phone and Internet access and release detainees in the region. After India’s Parliament voted to remove a constitutional provision that gave Kashmiris semi-autonomy and a right to their own constitution, flag, and land, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government imposed a security lockdown and communications blackout. Thousands of people were detained.
Some phone connectivity has been restored, but Internet services remain down.
The US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation are meeting Tuesday on human rights in South Asia. The subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California, has said the focus will be on Kashmir, where life has been disrupted for nearly 8 million people.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have expressed concern about human rights in Kashmir in recent months. Earlier this month, Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland told reporters in New Delhi that he and other members of a US delegation to India were not blocked by the Indian government from visiting Kashmir.
In the statement, Wells also said that direct dialogue between India and Pakistan held the most potential for reducing regional tensions. The archrival countries each administer a portion of Kashmir, but both claim the region in its entirety.
Wells called out Pakistan for its “continued support of extremist groups that engage in cross-border terrorism.”
In July, President Donald Trump said that he offered to mediate India-Pakistan talks on Kashmir. India’s foreign minister has repeatedly denied the claim.
“The tenor of the Kashmir discussion in the US is something that India will be looking at closely,” said Brahma Chellaney, a professor at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research.
The House hearing on Tuesday will also take up a citizen registry effort in northeast India that has placed the legal status of about 2 million people in limbo, as well as human rights issues in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, according to Sherman’s office. 

Pakistan tests ballistic missile amid tensions with India

Updated 18 November 2019

Pakistan tests ballistic missile amid tensions with India

  • Shaheen-I is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads
  • Troops commended for handling the potent weapon system and ensuring “minimum deterrence“

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday conducted a “successful” training launch of the Shaheen-I, a surface-to-surface ballistic missile that is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads up to a range of 650 kilometers, a statement released by the army’s media wing, the ISPR said.

“The launch was conducted as part of a training exercise which was aimed at testing the operational readiness of the Army Strategic Forces Command. Shaheen-I missile is capable of delivering all types of warheads up to a range of 650 kilometers,” it added.

Director General Strategic Plans Division, Commander Army Strategic Forces Command, and other senior officials, including scientists and engineers, oversaw the launch on Monday wherein troops displayed a high standard of proficiency in “handling and operating the potent weapon system, ensuring Pakistan’s credible minimum deterrence.”

It comes amid heightened tensions between Pakistan and India after New Delhi’s decision to revoke the special autonomous status of the disputed territory of Kashmir on August 5. 

Both India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the Kashmir region since 1947 when the two got independence from British rule.