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US voices Kashmir concern as lawmakers raise tone on India

US voices Kashmir concern as lawmakers raise tone on India

WASHINGTON:  The United States on Tuesday renewed calls on India to ease its clampdown in Kashmir as several lawmakers voiced anger at actions by a country that usually enjoys strong US support.

Alice Wells, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, said that the United States “remains concerned” about the impact of India’s actions in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley.

“We have urged Indian authorities to respect human rights and restore full access to services, including internet and mobile networks,” she told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.

She said that the United States was also concerned about the detention of residents including mainstream political leaders and about impediments to both local and foreign media coverage.

India in August cut virtually all telephone and internet service in Kashmir. 

The actions by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government have triggered unusually strong criticism by members of Congress, who along with successive US administrations have for two decades broadly backed building strong relations with India.

Representative Ilhan Omar, a prominent first-term Democratic lawmaker and one of the few Muslims in Congress, charged that Kashmir is part of a pattern against Islam by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

Earlier, The United States House Foreign Affairs sub-committee discussed human rights issues in Occupied Kashmir and the situation in the Muslim majority region that has emerged after New Delhi scrapped its special status.

Brad Sherman, Chairman of the panel, said that the hearing will focus on the occupied valley where thousands of people had been detained ever since India revoked Article 370.

“Many political activists have been arrested and daily life, the internet, and telephone communications have been interrupted,” said Sherman in a statement. He said that food, medicine and other essentials will also be reviewed in the hearing.

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