US wants an end to India’s Kashmir lockdown

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–AJK president, PM brief senators Hollen and Hassan brief visiting delegations of rights violations in IOK

–Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren concerned over communication blackout, says rights of Kashmiri people must be respected

ISLAMABAD: A high-level United States Congressional delegation, that visited Muzaffarabad to see the ground situation in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and “gauge public sentiment” on Sunday, said they would “continue to urge India to lift the curfew and release all prisoners as a first step” to decrease the soaring tensions in the region.

According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office, the US leaders “shared the human rights concerns” and “expressed their resolve to remain engaged for the resolution of the dispute”.

The delegation included Senators Chris Van Hollen and Maggie Hassan along with their staffers and US Chargé d’Affaires Ambassador Paul Jones, the statement added.

During their visit to the AJK, a detailed briefing on the current situation on the restive Line of Control (LOC) was given by Major General Amer.

The delegation also called on AJK President Sardar Masood Khan and Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider. The AJK leadership thanked the two senators for the visit and appreciated their support for the people of IOK.

The US delegation was apprised of the historical background of the Kashmir dispute and the deteriorating situation in the IOK in wake of the prolonged curfew and suppression of fundamental rights of Kashmiris on the Indian side of the region since August 5.

The AJK leadership expressed hope that the delegation’s visit to the territory would allow them to understand the humanitarian crisis in IOK and will help them to explain the on-ground situation to their colleagues on Capitol Hill upon return to the United States.

It was noted that the Indian government’s policy of denial to allow neutral observers to visit IOK had exposed India’s “all is well “propaganda.

Both President Masood Khan and Prime Minister Farooq Haider urged the US senators to play their role in pressing India to resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UNSC resolutions.

Among other things, they also shared the vision and priorities of the AJK government, which were focused on governance, rule of law and development.

The US senators said that they shared the human rights concerns and would continue to urge India to lift the curfew and release all prisoners as a first step. They also expressed their resolve to remain engaged for the resolution of the dispute.

WARREN CONCERNED OVER COMMUNICATION BLACKOUT:

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate for the US Elections 2020, on Saturday expressed concern about the recent events in occupied Kashmir, including the ongoing communications blackout.

In a post shared on Twitter, the progressive senator said: “The US-India partnership has always been rooted in our shared democratic values. I’m concerned about recent events in [India-occupied] Kashmir, including a continued communications blackout and other restrictions.”

“The rights of the people of Kashmir must be respected,” she added on Twitter, along with an article about the situation in occupied Kashmir.

Since the Indian government on August 5 repealed Article 370 of its constitution — stripping occupied Kashmir of its special status — a strict lock-down and communications blackout has suffocated the region into silence. It has now been in place for 63 days.

Various American lawmakers have condemned India’s actions in occupied Kashmir.

Another Democratic presidential hopeful, US Senator Bernie Sanders last month termed India’s move to annex occupied Kashmir as “unacceptable”.

Last week, trailblazing US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the blockade on communication and life-saving medical care in occupied Kashmir “must end” as she expressed support for the people of the disputed territory.

Additionally, a US Senate panel has attached an amendment to a finance bill that requires India to end its lockdown and curfew in occupied Kashmir and fully restore communications links to the occupied valley.