Lawmaker urges US govt to press India over situation in occupied Kashmir

Published September 13, 2019
“It is very much a matter for the administration and the administration has to take it more seriously,” said Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. — AP/File
“It is very much a matter for the administration and the administration has to take it more seriously,” said Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. — AP/File

WASHINGTON: As resentment against India’s annexation of Kashmir grows, a US lawmaker has urged the Trump administration to “weigh in” while another asked India to let Kashmiris decide their future.

“It is very much a matter for the administration and the administration has to take it more seriously,” said Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “At the end of the day we do need the administration to weigh in.

“I have been very dismayed with what’s happening in Kashmir. I strongly disagree with what Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has done,” said Congressman Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat who is also a former US ambassador to Switzerland.

Equating Mr Modi with other autocratic leaders in the world, Mr. Beyer said: “You see this happening with autocratic leaders all over the world, dividing people, setting one religion against another, setting one race against another.”

The two lawmakers were talking to journalists on Wednesday after an event in the memory of the 9/11 victims. Referring to UN resolutions and pledges by both India and Pakistan to hold a referendum in Kashmir, Mr. Beyer said: “In Kashmir, years ago it was decided that its future will be decided by a vote of the people and that’s not happened.”

The congressman also rejected India’s Aug. 5 decision to annex Kashmir and called it an inappropriate military incursion.

“And this annexation, I strongly disapprove. More Americans will stand up to this inappropriate military incursion,” he said.

Senator Kaine, who is also a former governor of Virginia and chair of the Democratic National Committee, indicated that Kashmir was one of the key issues that US lawmakers had taken up with the administration since they returned from the summer recess earlier this week.

“We have just come back from the recess and what I am starting with is meetings with my colleagues and representatives of the governments so we can promote more stability,” he said.

Senator Kaine said that as a member of the Senate’s panel for foreign relations, he has scheduled meetings with representatives of various governments — including the US administration — to understand the situation.

He said he was doing so “because it’s unacceptable what’s happening” in Kashmir and “we need to figure out if there’re steps that we can take to bring tensions down.”

The two statements reflect a growing realization in Washington that India may be the world’s largest democracy, but what it has done in Kashmir is not only undemocratic, it’s also illegal and violates international norms and treaties.

Washington insiders say that while Indian officials might have dropped hints that they may be taking some administrative measures in Kashmir, they did not tell Americans that they were going to merge the occupied valley with the union.

This has added to Washington’s annoyance with the Indian action and reflects in US President Donald Trump’s repeated offer to mediate between India and Pakistan.

India is also finding it difficult to justify its action and in their public and private engagements in Washington, Indian officials and diplomats often try to redirect the conversation to terrorism.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2019

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