New Delhi: The United States (US) state department has termed the foreign diplomats’ recent trip to Jammu and Kashmir (which is under unprecedented restrictions since August 5, 2019 ) an ‘important step’ but asserted that it remained ‘concerned’ by the continued detention of political leaders, residents, and Internet restrictions.

Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter, US State Department”s bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) said that it was closely following the visit of US Ambassador to India Keneth Juster and other foreign envoys’ visit to Jammu and Kashmir.

“Closely following @USAmbIndia and other foreign diplomats’ recent trip to Jammu & Kashmir. Important step. We remain concerned by detention of political leaders and residents, and Internet restrictions. We look forward to a return to normalcy,” Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs tweeted on Saturday night.

Earlier on Thursday, January 9, a group of 15 envoys and diplomats had visited the Kashmir valley where they interacted with select political representatives, civil society members as well as military top brass with the Indian government rejecting criticism that it was a ‘guided tour’.

The government had said that the objective of taking the foreign envoys to Kashmir was to help them see the efforts to bring back normalcy in the valley after the scrapping of provisions of Article 370. However, the diplomats were not given access to meet former Chief Ministers of the erstwhile state–Omar Abdullah or Mehbooba Mufti – who remain under detention.

Since August 5, 2019, Kashmir valley has been under severe restrictions following the Narendra Modi-led central government decision to abrogate the Article 370.

However, on Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that an indefinite shutdown of the internet in Kashmir was illegal. “It is no doubt that freedom of speech is an essential tool in a democratic set up. Freedom of Internet access is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of free speech“, said a three-judge bench comprises of Justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai, while delivering verdict on a batch of pleas, including that of senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.