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27 members of US Congress protest Kashmir annexation

A total of 27 members of US Congress have so far issued statements and tweets against unilateral Indian annexation of Kashmir.

By Javad M Goraya
September 16, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A total of 27 members of US Congress have so far issued statements and tweets against unilateral Indian annexation of Kashmir. All of them have heavily criticised India on the continued denial of basic human rights and a number of them have expressed reservations on altering the legal status of Kashmir without regard to UN and bilateral covenants.

The threat to global and regional peace due to Indian unilateral action is highlighted as well. Out of the 27 members of Congress, 25 belong to Democratic Party. One of the leading candidates for Democratic Party nomination to compete President Trump in 2020, Senator Bernie Sanders set the tone on Sept 1.

Senator Sanders took one the most aggressive positions on Kashmir annexation by demanding solution of Kashmir as per UN resolutions. Senator Sanders also demanded immediate lifting of all types of restrictions imposed by India.

Other Democratic Party candidates including ex-vice President Joe Biden, Senator Kamala Hariss and ex-Congressman Beto O'Rourke have also called for immediate restoration of basic human rights of Kashmiri population.

Chairman House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee Elliot Engel and Senator Robert Menendez Ranking Member Senate Foreign Relations committee were the first to speak out. In a joint statement on Aug 7, both asked India to adhere to spirit of representative democracy and ensure transparency and political participation while dealing with Jammu & Kashmir issue. Brad Sherman, Chairman House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Sub Committee on Asia has called for a special meeting to discuss Kashmir. Rep Sherman has invited Alice Wells, Senior State Department official dealing with South Asia and Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom Samuel D Brownback to this meeting.

In a bi-partisan joint letter by two Republican and two Democratic Party Senators addressed to President Trump on September 12 including Senator Lindsay Graham who is President Trump close aide on South Asia and Middle East urged President Trump to talk with Indian prime minister to immediately end the human rights restrictions in Kashmir. The senators welcomed President Trump interest in resolving the Kashmir issue and called for a constructive role by USA to end the dispute between two nuclear armed countries.

Another prominent Congressman, Adam Schiff Chairman of Intelligence Committee of House of Representatives took strong exception to denial of basic freedom like forcible detention of thousands and curbs on free speech and access to information. Eric Swalwell, Member Judiciary Committee House of Representatives, said that the Kashmir issue is not just about India and Pakistan as it involves worldwide military, economic and moral issues and without US leadership it will get worse. He also called for immediate restoration of basic human rights of Kashmiri population.

The three Muslim members of US Congress André Carson, a senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rashida Tlaib, Member of House of Representatives and Ilhan Omar, Member of House of Representatives have been very vocal against the Indian annexation of Kashmir. Andre Carson in his statement lamented that India has made Kashmir a heavily militarised area, mosques are closed and all types of freedoms are curbed. Carson criticised that the will of the Kashmiri is suppressed in this unilateral action which has aggravated the crisis between two nuclear armed countries and put Afghan peace process at risk. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib called for immediate and full implementation of the two annual reports in 2018 and 2019 by The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the human rights abuse in Kashmir. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar demanded immediate restoration of for an immediate restoration of communication, respect for human rights, democratic norms, and religious freedom and de-escalation in Kashmir.

Congresswoman Judy Chu, the only Chinese American elected to Congress has urged India to lift restrictions on communications and provide the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir with the same rights as other citizens of India and lamented that many political leaders are still being held in preventive detention.

In the joint letter written by six members of Congress on September 14, all members demanded that Indian government should facilitate contact between family members who have not spoken to each other for over a month. They asked Indian authorities to pay heed to the protest raised by global human rights organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Committee to Protect Journalists and others and lift restrictions on basic rights.