US urges India to free detainees, restore rights in occupied Kashmir

Published August 21, 2019
The clock tower at deserted Lal Chowk is pictured during a security lockdown in Srinagar on Monday. — AFP
The clock tower at deserted Lal Chowk is pictured during a security lockdown in Srinagar on Monday. — AFP

The United States called on India on Tuesday to quickly release detainees and restore basic liberties in Indian-occupied Kashmir to ease tensions in the flashpoint region.

“We continue to be very concerned by reports of detentions, and continued restrictions on the residents of the region,” a senior State Department official told reporters.

“We urge respect for individual rights, compliance with legal procedures and an inclusive dialogue,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity after returning from a visit to the region.

Tensions have been high since India revoked autonomous rule in the part of Kashmir it occupies on August 5.

Indian authorities imposed a communications blackout and heavy restrictions on movement from the eve of the intervention.

At least 4,000 people have been detained in Indian-occupied Kashmir since then.

US President Donald Trump has spoken in recent days by phone with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Imran Khan to urge both sides to ease the tensions in Kashmir.

Referring to India, the State Department official said, “We urge respect for individual rights, compliance with legal procedures and an inclusive dialogue.” “We are aware of India's concerns but continue to urge that they work as quickly as possible to restore normalcy in the region,” she said.

Washington has called on India and Pakistan, both of whom are nuclear powers, to open a direct dialogue to resolve their dispute over the mountainous territory, a majority of whose population is Muslim.

Trump has offered to play the role of a mediator, saying Modi had requested his services, an assertion that New Delhi formally denied.

On Tuesday, Trump reiterated the offer to mediate the “explosive” situation in Kashmir.

Trump said he would raise the matter over the weekend with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Kashmir is a very complicated place. You have Hindus and you have the Muslims and I wouldn't say they get along so great,” Trump told reporters.

“I will do the best I can to mediate,” he said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan would take the Kashmir dispute with India to the International Court of Justice.

“The decision was taken after considering all legal aspects,” he said.

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