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October 26, 2019

Instructions to India, Pakistan on Kashmir: US wants normalcy restored; militants curtailed

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October 26, 2019

WASHINGTON: The US has once again asked India to share a roadmap for the restoration of political and economic normalcy in Kashmir following the restrictions that have been imposed for over three months.

Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, on Thursday sought the release of political detainees and pressed India for the restoration of everyday services, most importantly, for roadmap to the restoration of political and economic normalcy. She added that the US remains deeply concerned about the situation in the Valley where daily life of nearly eight million residents has been severely impacted since the decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

She mentioned that the Indian prime minister himself laid out the eventual return to statehood and state assembly elections, hence the US was interested in finding out the next steps and how to establish that kind of a political dialogue and process that allows and facilitates the return to normalcy in Kashmir. "We’ve urged that they [detainees] be released immediately and that there are no charges that have been brought against them and that it will be important for a true dialogue to take pace," she said.

Wells also urged Pakistan to take action against non-state actors. "Terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen obviously are the problem," she said while also welcoming Prime Minister Imran Khan's statement warning that anyone who crosses LoC to carry out violence in Kashmir are enemies of both Pakistan and the Kashmiri people.

"The constructive dialogue that we would like to see between India and Pakistan must be based on Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists on its territory," Wells further said and added President Trump and Secretary [Mike] Pompeo have met and spoken with their Indian and Pakistani counterparts multiple times. She also said that all sides have the responsibility to create the conditions in Kashmir for dialogue, including avoiding heated unhelpful rhetoric.

The State Department has been vocal about Indian human rights violations in Kashmir, while actively encouraging Pakistan and India to initiate a bilateral dialogue to help ease the situation in the region. President Trump in that regard has also offered to mediate but Indian government has declined any such facilitation to find a peaceful solution. The US also appreciates and welcomes Pakistan's confidence building measures for better relations with its neighbour, including setting up a hotline between DGMOs and opening up the Kartarpur Corridor. "While it’s a small step, we need more small steps like this to create good well and the environment for a more constructive dialogue," a senior State Department official said.

The Trump administration has seen "positive steps" from Pakistan. Under the FATF action plan, there are 27 actions that Pakistan is supposed to complete out of which five have been completed fully, 17 partially while five others incomplete. Referring to that point, the State Department believes that Pakistan has to meet its international obligations that could breathe the confidence that would be necessary for constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan.

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