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Protesters urge US to do more on Kashmir

Updated August 11, 2019

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In a separate statement, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, urged all peace-loving nations to help defuse this dangerous situation. — Photo courtesy Maleeha Lodhi Twitter/File
In a separate statement, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, urged all peace-loving nations to help defuse this dangerous situation. — Photo courtesy Maleeha Lodhi Twitter/File

WASHINGTON: Pakistan called on the Trump administration to do more to help reduce tensions between India and Pakistan as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the White House on Saturday to reject New Delhi’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy.

Similar protests were staged in other parts of the United States with large gatherings being reported from New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

“The United States could and must do more to help defuse this situation and to inject some more sanity on the Indian side,” said Pakistan’s ambassador Asad Majeed Khan while talking to the media at a community dinner on Friday.

In a separate statement, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, urged all peace-loving nations to help defuse this dangerous situation. She recalled that UN Secretary-General António Guterres had urged both India and Pakistan to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir.

The United Nations recognises Kashmir as a territory disputed between India and Pakistan, as does the United States.

“The secretary-general’s statement has exposed the fallacy of the Indian claim that Kashmir is its internal problem,” Ms Lodhi said.

Ambassador Khan noted that US President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir “proves that it’s a dispute that needs to be settled” and, therefore, all major powers with influence in the region must help resolve this issue. “The US, being a major power with influence over both India and Pakistan, also has a role to play,” he added.

“India’s effort to change ground realities in Kashmir not only destabilises South Asia, it also is a threat to world peace,” he warned.

Here outside the White House, the protesters reminded President Trump of the promise he had made during his meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan on July 22. They urged him to help the people of Kashmir.

“Now is the time to mediate,” said R. Wani, a Virginia resident originally hailing from Srinagar area of India-held Kashmir, while participating in the protest.

“The Indian decision to do away with Kashmir’s autonomy is the first step to change the Valley’s demography,” he added. “Mediate now, before it’s too late.”

Other speakers while addressing the protesters reminded the Trump administration that annulling Article 370 by India was more than just a constitutional amendment. “This is a militarised plan to turn a majority into a minority, through torture, killing and mass deportations,” said Chand Dhodhi.

One of the main leaders of the Kashmiri diaspora in the US, Ghulam Nabi Fai, said: “Kashmiris are being turned into second-class citizens in their own land. The plan is not only to deprive them of their rights but to subjugate them through widespread killings and torture. The international community cannot and must not allow this to happen.”

Saman Mahmood, who attended a similar rally in Los Angeles, commented in a Facebook post that not only the Kashmiris, or other Muslims in India were protesting the government decision to deprive the people of Kashmir of their constitutional rights but progressive students too were rallying against the Modi government.

Ather Zia, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado, Bounder, noted that Kashmir was more than a dispute between India and Pakistan. “It concerns millions of Kashmiris, who are being deprived of their rights and aspirations and denied the right to self-determination.”

In New York, people from Bangladesh, Palestine and Bosnia also participated in the protest outside the Indian consulate and UN Mission.

In an interview to Bloomberg news agency, Ambassador Khan said Pakistan would review bilateral agreements, take the matter to the UN Security Council and ensure that the army remain vigilant. He said: “I see more violence in the Valley.”

“We would not look to escalate, but we will respond in a very befitting manner if there is any violation of our territory,” he added.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2019