US Congress hearing on J&K: India says criticism ‘regrettable’, should have focussed on cross-border terror

Shubhajit Roy
Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.

Days after the first US Congressional hearing on the Union government’s decision to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, New Delhi on Thursday called criticism by several US Congress members over the situation in Kashmir as “regrettable” and stressed that the comments reflect a “very limited understanding” of the country’s history and its pluralistic society.

Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that instead of criticising New Delhi, the occasion should have been used to “ascertain facts on state-sponsored cross border terrorism in Kashmir”.

“It is regrettable that a few members of the US Congress used the Congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia to question the measures taken recently to safeguard life, peace and security in Kashmir,” Kumar said in response to a question at a media briefing. “These comments display a very limited understanding of India’s history, her pluralistic society, constitutionally guaranteed freedom, fundamental rights, and the robust institutions operating in the world’s largest democracy.”

He said India feels that the hearing should have been used to ascertain facts on state-sponsored cross-border terrorism afflicting Kashmir, which endangers the most fundamental of human rights — the right to life.

Read | Two civil society members back India on J&K move, three oppose

Kumar said India has been regularly updating departments concerned in the US government on the situation in Kashmir and sensitising them about “real concerns” over “revival” of cross-border terrorism by Pakistan. He said India has taken note of comments of Alice Wells, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, that Pakistan needs to do much more in curbing terrorism on its territory in a “credible, verifiable and irreversible” manner.

Explained

US Congress vs US administration

India’s response to the US Congressional hearing made a clear distinction between what US Congress members said and what the US administration officials testified on the Kashmir situation. While Delhi slammed some of the US Congress members for their views, there was a fair bit of appreciation of the US administration’s comments. This reflects New Delhi’s understanding of the nuance between the US Congress and the executive branch. But it also puts responsibility on the government to act on the ground to normalise the situation in Kashmir.

In the hearing, held Tuesday night (US EST), the Donald Trump administration had walked the diplomatic tightrope, telling the US Congress that there is a “humanitarian crisis” in J&K, and adding that its relationship with India is not one of “dictation” but that of “partnership.”

US administration officials also told the panel that American diplomats wanted to travel to J&K after August 5 but New Delhi denied permission, saying it was not the right time to go there.

On the key issue of change in status, however, US officials backed New Delhi, saying that the decision to revoke provisions of Article 370 was passed by Parliament, where Opposition members “crossed the aisle” and voted in favour of the legislation, and that the matter is under review of the Supreme Court.

Alice Wells made it clear that the US government was not taking a position on the issue of Article 370 but on the manner in which the decision was executed by New Delhi.