A senior U.S. diplomat told lawmakers Tuesday the administration of President Donald Trump “remains concerned” about India’s clampdown on the part of Kashmir it controls, but supports India’s development goals in the region.
Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said in a statement presented to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “We welcome actions by the Indian government to improve the situation and address local grievances.”
Wells said the State Department has urged India to restore phone and internet service and free detainees in the India-administered section of the disputed Kashmir region.
Some phone service has been restored, but internet service remains down.
Wells said while conditions in the area have improved, “the valley has not returned to normal.”
She said her agency has “raised concerns” with the Indian government about the recent detention of “several thousand” local residents and “political leaders.”
Citing government sources, Wells’ statement said “hundreds” of those arrested remain in custody, “many without charges,” under Indian law.
Wells specifically called on the Indian government uphold its commitment to hold “local assembly elections at the earliest opportunity” and expressed hope the government would continue to release political leaders.
The Indian parliament voted on August 5 to strip Indian administered Kashmir of its special constitutional status. As a result, the Muslim-majority region no longer has semi-autonomy, and the right to its own constitution, flag and land.
Wells told lawmakers the August 5 vote has “severely impacted” the daily lives of “nearly eight million” people in Kashmir.
She said direct talks between archrivals India and Pakistan offered the best chance of lowering regional tensions.
Both countries administer a part of Kashmir, but both claim the region in its entirety.