US presses India on Kashmir rights, seeks lower tensions

United Nations, United States, Sept 27 (AFP/APP):The United States wants New Delhi to quickly ease restrictions imposed in Kashmir, a senior official said Thursday, declaring President Donald Trump’s willingness to mediate to ease tensions between India and Pakistan over the territory.

Trump met separately this week with both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who are both due to address the UN General Assembly on Friday.

While Trump has forged a close bond with Modi, joining the Hindu nationalist at a massive rally on Sunday in Houston where the Indian leader boasted of his actions in Kashmir, a senior official said that the United States had concerns over the clampdown in the region.

“We hope to see rapid action — the lifting of the restrictions and the release of those who have been detained,” Alice Wells, the top State Department official for South Asia, told reporters.

India in August revoked the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, which had been India’s only Muslim-majority state. It detained a wide range of political leaders and restricted communications for ordinary people.
While some measures have been eased, internet and cellular service has remained off for well over a month.

“The United States is concerned by widespread detentions, including those of politicians and business leaders, and the restrictions on the residents of Jammu and Kashmir,” Wells said.

“We look forward to the Indian government’s resumption of political engagement with local leaders and the scheduling of the promised elections at the earliest opportunity,” she said.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and served as the trigger for two of their full-fledged wars.

“The world would benefit from reduced tensions and increased dialogue between the two countries and, given these factors, the president is willing to mediate if asked by both parties,” she said.
India, however, has long rejected any outside role on Kashmir and quickly shot down the idea after Trump mentioned mediation in a July meeting with Khan.

The Modi government says that its actions will spur economic development in Kashmir and defends the restrictions as temporary means to ensure calm and prevent Pakistan from meddling.

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