The foreign affairs committee of the United States Congress has expressed concern over conditions in Kashmir in a bipartisan letter issued on the day that marked the first year of abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370.
“We note with concern that conditions in Jammu and Kashmir have not normalised one year after India’s repeal of Article 370 and the establishment of Jammu and Kashmir as Union Territory,” Chairman of the Committee Eliot L. Engel and ranking member Michael T. McCaul wrote in a letter.
Last year on the 5th of August the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi removed the semi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and split it into two union territories. The authorities enforced a military lockdown and a digital siege on the region as it detained thousands, many of them are still behind the bars, as a preemptive exercise to thwart any chances of public revolt.
It is a standing committee of the US House of Representatives responsible for foreign policy legislation and oversight.
The letter addressed to Foreign Minister Dr S. Jaishakar acknowledges the security concerns in the region.
The letter says that the committee looks forward to working with the Indian government “to address these concerns”.
The committee reiterates support for the US-India relationship recognising its significance and impact on the trajectory of the 21st century while taking a clear side in the China-India conflict, the letter asserts, “The closer relationship is more important as India faces aggression from China along your shared border, which is part of the consistent Chinese pattern of unlawful and belligerent territorial aggression across the Indo-Pacific. The United States will remain steadfast in support of India’s efforts to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The letter underlines that the relationship between the two countries is built on the shared commitment to democratic values and freedoms.
Notably, hours before the US committee letter, Prime Minister Modi laid the foundation stone for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya at the site of Babri Masjid which was demolished by Hindutva mob in 1992. This has evoked strong reactions from secular and democratic voices who said that the decision to construct the temple has hurt India’s foundational values.