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Resume political engagement with local leaders, hold polls in J&K at earliest: US to India

Agencies

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A month after political leaders were detained and communication restrictions were put in place in Jammu and Kashmir, the US on Friday expressed concern over the “widespread detentions” and “urged” authorities to “respect human rights”. Washington has also asked Indian authorities to “resume political engagement with local leaders” and hold “elections at the earliest”.

This is the strongest statement by the US administration so far on the Centre’s move to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, and comes almost 11 days after US President Donald Trump had said on August 26 he had discussed the issue on August 25 over dinner and had said Prime Minister Narendra Modi “really feels he has it under control”.

Responding to questions, US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said: “We continue to be very concerned by widespread detentions, including of local political and business leaders, and the restrictions on the residents of the region. We are also concerned about reports that Internet and mobile phone access continues to be blocked in certain regions.”

 

“We urge authorities to respect human rights and restore access to services such as the Internet and mobile networks. We look forward to the Indian government’s resumption of political engagement with local leaders and the scheduling of promised elections at the earliest opportunity.”

This is a clear evolution of the US administration’s position, especially weeks before the Prime Minister is scheduled to travel to the US for the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

But, Friday’s comments —released by the US embassy in Delhi, in response to questions — indicate that this approach is very different from the US position on August 6, when it had said they “take note” that the Indian government has described these actions as strictly an internal matter.

They had said they were concerned about reports of detentions and urge respect for individual rights and discussion with those in affected communities.

Last month, on the sidelines of the G-7 meeting in Biarritz in France, Modi had said that all issues with Pakistan are bilateral and India doesn’t bother any other country about them. “India and Pakistan were together before 1947 and I’m confident that we can discuss our problems and solve them, together,” he said.

Trump had said: “We spoke last night about Kashmir, the Prime Minister really feels he has it under control. They speak with Pakistan and I’m sure that they will be able to do something that will be very good… I have a very good relationship with both the gentlemen (Modi and Khan) and I’m here. I think they can do it (resolve the issue) themselves.”

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had said there was no discussion on J&K at the meeting between Modi and Trump that followed — their second in 2019, two months after they last met in Osaka on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Japan.


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Lead Stories

UN chief could discuss Kashmir issue at UNGA: UN spokesman

Press Trust of India

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is likely to use the opportunity of discussions during the high-level UN General Assembly session that begins here next week to raise the Kashmir issue, the UN chief’s spokesperson has said.

Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric during the daily press briefing here on Thursday said that the UN chief has underscored the need for dialogue as the only way to resolve the issue and, “as part of the solution for the current crisis in Kashmir, to make sure that human rights aspects are very much dealt with, as well.”

“…On Kashmir, the Secretary General… has said previously, he remains engaged. I think he will also use the opportunity of discussions during the General Assembly to raise it,” Dujarric said, responding to a question on the situation in Kashmir.

On Wednesday, Guterres emphasised that “dialogue” between India and Pakistan is an “absolute essential element” for reaching a solution on the Kashmir issue, and said his good offices are available should both sides ask for it and called for full respect of human rights.

“Well, our capacity is related to good offices, and good offices can only be implemented when the parties accept it. And, on the other hand, it relates to advocacy, and the advocacy was expressed and will be maintained,” Guterres said during his press conference ahead of the UN General Assembly session.

Guterres was asked by a Pakistani journalist about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and what will he do to bring a solution to the Kashmir issue.

“I go on with a clear opinion that human rights must be fully respected in the territory, and I go on with the clear opinion that dialogue between India and Pakistan is an absolutely essential element for the solution of the problem,” he said.

India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and ruled out any third party mediation, including either from the UN or the US, saying it is a bilateral issue with Pakistan.

The UN Secretary General has also repeatedly asserted that his good offices are available only if both sides ask for it.

Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.

Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York on September 27. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to speak on the same day.

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Amid Kashmir tensions, India will participate at SAARC meeting in New York

Press Trust of India

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NEW DELHI: Amid heightened Indo-Pak tensions, India will participate at the SAARC foreign ministers meeting scheduled to be held on September 26 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, officials said on Thursday.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan will be present in the US next week and will hold bilateral and multilateral meetings.

Officials said India will participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation foreign ministers meeting that is scheduled for September 26.

The meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA could bring Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi face to face for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions.

Asked about a possible meeting with his Pakistani counterpart as well as the future of the SAARC regional grouping, Jaishankar, at a press conference earlier this week, had said, “if and when I meet Pakistani Foreign Minister, we will see at that time what happens”.

The SAARC is about regional cooperation and that refers to trade, MFN, connectivity etc.

, he had said, adding that now every member knows which country is promoting SAARC and which one is impeding it.

Last year, then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had attended the SAARC Foreign Ministers meeting, usually held on the sidelines of the UNGA.

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Plea alleges detention of children in Kashmir, SC seeks report

Agencies

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The Supreme Court on Friday sought a report from Jammu and Kashmir High Court on the alleged detention of children in Kashmir during curbs following the scrapping of Article 370 in the state on August 5.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing child right activists Inakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha who have alleged detention of children in Kashmir, had on September 16 told the apex court that people in the Valley are not able to approach the high court there.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would entertain the petition regarding alleged detention of children in Kashmir as the plea has raised “substantial issues” regarding minors. The top court directed the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to file a report before it within a week on the issue.

The Supreme Court also said it had received a report from the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court and claims that people are unable to access the court there are not supported.

“We have received the report from the chief justice (of Jammu and Kashmir High Court) which does not support your statement,” the bench also comprising justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer told the counsel appearing for the petitioners.

The Supreme Court also sought response from the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea challenging detention of five persons in Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.

The bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir administration, to file his response.

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