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 to resume outbound international flights on Saturday

Updated 29 May 2020

Pakistan to resume outbound international flights on Saturday

  • International travel was suspended on March 21, as a measure to contain the spread of coronavirus
  • Airlines operating international flights will have to follow the SOPs of their destination countries

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will resume outbound international flight operations from Saturday, after having its airspace closed for commercial flights for over two months.
“Both national and foreign airlines shall be allowed to operate from all international airports of Pakistan with exception of Gwadar and Turbat,” the Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said in a statement on Friday.
As the pandemic is not over, PCAA said airlines operating the flights will have to follow the standard operating procedures of their destination countries.
“SOPs for outbound international flights have already been issued according to which airlines will be required to follow the SOPs of the destination country. Additionally, disinfection of aircraft will be ensured and no congestion at airports shall be allowed,” the statement read.
International travel was suspended on March 21, as a measure to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Also on Friday, the PCAA said domestic flight volume would be increased, starting from June 1, to up to 45 percent of pre-pandemic operations from the current 20 percent, amid growing business and public demand for air travel. 
Domestic flights resumed at five airports on May 16, when the country started to reboot economic activity and ease coronavirus restrictions on businesses.
The five airports are Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, Islamabad International Airport (IIAP), Quetta International Airport, and Bacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar.