Diplomacy

US Seeks Early Return to Kashmir's 'Normal Political Status'

The phrase seems chosen to include both early elections, which Modi promised, and a return to state status, which was a hope that the prime minister held out in his August 8 speech.

New Delhi: Even as it described being “very concerned” over detentions and restrictions, the US on Thursday hoped that Jammu and Kashmir would soon return to “normal political status” as committed by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The statement from the US embassy spokesperson on Thursday night was the first time that that country had implicitly commented on the administrative nature of Kashmir, which it had always insisted was India’s internal matter.

“We welcome Prime Minister Modi’s statement that Jammu and Kashmir will soon return to normal political status,” said spokesperson of the US embassy in New Delhi, in response to a media query.

The phrase “normal political status” seems chosen to include both early elections, which Modi promised, and a return to state status, which was a hope that the prime minister held out in his August 8 speech.

The US embassy stated that it was watching the situation in Kashmir “closely” and called for “calm and restraint, including on rhetoric.”

Repeating an earlier observation, the embassy spokesperson reminded that the developments in Jammu and Kashmir had “broader implications” along with “potential for increased instability in the region”.

“We continue to be very concerned by reports of detentions and the continued restrictions on the residents of the region. We urge respect for human rights, compliance with legal procedures and an inclusive dialogue with those affected,” she noted.

This is not the first time that the US has said that it was “very concerned” about detentions and civic liberties in Kashmir. Washington had said so about a week ago. Previously, these words had been uttered by an unnamed state department official, which means that an attributed reply is a step-up in the hierarchy of public diplomatic statements.

On the eve of the modification of Article 370 by parliament, the Indian government had taken most of the mainstream political leaders in Kashmir into custody. There are no figures over how many political leaders and workers have been detained. Most of the senior leaders have been kept isolated in a hotel in Srinagar.

All phones and internet connections had also been cut off for the last three weeks.

On Wednesday, governor Satyapal Malik had said in Srinagar that landlines would be restored in a phased manner.

However, he stated that the full restoration of mobiles and internet connections have been deferred as they were “used less by us and mostly by terrorists and Pakistanis as well as for mobilisation and indoctrination”.

Also read | Kashmir: Three Weeks of Living Under ‘Normalcy’

A day later on Thursday, Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar also highlighted the governor’s statement about jobs and agricultural boosts. He also underlined governor’s commitment to hold block development council elections would be completed by October.

He also asserted that “certain manual restrictions” were necessary.

Kumar stated that out of 197 police stations, 167 had no day-time restrictions. All reports about shortage of essential drugs were “false,” he added.

“The local government is handling the situation with maturity and restraint. Not a single life has been lost, not a single live bullet has been fired. The administration is putting all the necessary resources so that normalcy returns to the state as soon as possible,” he stated.

Kumar also said that it would not be fair to compare the situation in Kashmir with the rest of the country.

The US embassy spokesperson called on both India and Pakistan to “maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control and to prevent cross-border terrorism”. She reiterated that the US continued to support “direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern”.

Pakistan government has announced that it will mark ‘Kashmir hour’ on Friday with sirens and national anthems. During a visit to Ladakh, defence minister Rajnath Singh said that no country was with Pakistan on Kashmir.