Washington: With India easing restriction in Kashmir in a phased manner, the United States on Thursday sought a roadmap to the restoration of political and economic normalcy in the valley.
The US also pressed for the release of detainees for the full restoration of everyday services. Many J&K mainstream politicians including two former chief ministers — Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, were detained on August 5 after the Centre struck down special status to the Valley; they continue to remain in preventive custody since.
“We continue to press for the release of detainees for the full restoration of everyday services, but most importantly, for roadmap to the restoration of political and economic normalcy,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice G Wells.
While the US expressed concern about the situation in the Valley, it asserted that some progress has been witnessed with regards to J&K.
“We’ve seen progress, for example, four million postpaid mobile phone users have had service restored, but SMS and internet is restricted,” she said.
The US said it 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 and to “detain without charge” political leaders and restrict communications, Wells said in an interaction with reporters at Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department.
Noting that journalists have extensively covered developments in Kashmir, Wells said the role of some of the international reporters have been particularly important, but journalists continue to face challenges in access while reporting due to the security restrictions.
Wells said terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahideen “obviously are the problem”.
“In this vein, we welcome (Pakistan) Prime Minister (Imran) Khan’s unambiguous statement in September that anyone who crosses from Pakistan to carry out violence in Kashmir are enemies of both Pakistan and the Kashmiri people,” she said.
“The constructive dialogue that we’d like to see between India and Pakistan must be based on Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists in its territory,” Wells said.
President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have met and spoken with their Indian and Pakistani counterparts multiple times and all sides have the responsibility to create the conditions in Kashmir for dialogue including avoiding heated and unhelpful rhetoric, she said.
(With PTI inputs)