New Delhi: The US State Department on Wednesday took note of the “broader implications” of India’s revoking of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcation of the state into two union territories, “including the potential for increased instability in the region.”
The US said that it is closely following the developments in the regions, hours after Pakistan expelled the Indian envoy and downgraded its diplomatic ties.
On short notice, a senior State Department official, acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells, will now be visiting India soon after travelling to Pakistan, a press release issued in Washington said.
The US has meanwhile refuted claims that India informed it before taking a decision on abrogation of Article 370, which stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status.
“Contrary to press reporting, the Indian government did not consult or inform the US Government before moving to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status,” the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs of the US State Department posted on Twitter. The tweet was posted on behalf of Wells.
A media report had claimed on Monday that New Delhi had kept Washington DC in the loop about its plans for Jammu and Kashmir. The Print reported that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had briefed his US counterpart John Bolton about the government’s plans to scrap special privileges granted to Jammu and Kashmir in February.
Meanwhile, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee issued a statement saying that their hope was that the Indian government abides by principles of transparency and political participation – “the cornerstones of representative democracies” – in Jammu and Kashmir.
At the same time, the statement noted, “Pakistan must refrain from any retaliatory aggression—including support for infiltrations across the Line of Control—and take demonstrable action against the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistan’s soil.”
Weighing in on the matter, Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator and member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has tweeted saying he has been in touch with the Pakistan foreign minister about the “growing crisis in Kashmir.”
“India’s decision to change the status quo must be addressed before it leads to a further escalation of tensions,” Graham tweeted.
Two powerful Democratic lawmakers have also urged Pakistan to refrain from any “retaliatory aggression” against India and take “demonstrable action” against terrorist groups within its territory.
Senator Robert Menendez and Congressman Eliot Engel in a joint statement on Wednesday also expressed concern over the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir. Menendez is a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while Engel is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Pakistan must refrain from any retaliatory aggression, including support for infiltrations across the Line of Control, and take demonstrable action against the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistan’s soil”, they said in the statement.
A State Department spokesperson told PTI on Wednesday that the US is “closely following” India’s revoking of Article 370 in Kashmir. “We note the broader implications of these developments, including the potential for increased instability in the region.”
The spokesperson was responding to a question on the situation in the region after Pakistan on Wednesday expelled Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria and downgraded the diplomatic ties with India over what it called New Delhi’s “unilateral and illegal” move to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
On Wednesday, the US had said there was an “urgent need” for dialogue among all actors to reduce tensions and to avoid a potential military escalation in South Asia.
The State Department spokesperson said that “the US calls for calm and restraint by all parties”.
Expressing concern over the detention of people in Jammu and Kashmir, the spokesperson said, “We continue to be concerned by reports of detentions and the continued restrictions on the residents of Jammu and Kashmir.”
“We urge respect for individual rights, compliance with legal procedures, and inclusive dialogue with those affected.”
The US, the spokesperson said, calls on all parties to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control, including “taking firm and resolute steps” to combat cross-border terrorism.
“We continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern,” the spokesperson said.
(With PTI inputs)