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US urges India to release detained Kashmir leaders, stresses ‘equal protection’ under CAA

The US also described the visit by its ambassador and other foreign envoys to Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month as ‘a useful step’.

SNS | New Delhi |

The United States on Saturday described the visit by US ambassador and other foreign envoys to Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month as “a useful step” even as it urged India to “to move swiftly to release those political leaders detained without charge”.

“On Jammu and Kashmir, I was pleased to see some incremental steps, including the partial return of internet service in Kashmir. We also continue to urge the government to permit regular access by our diplomats, and to move swiftly to release those political leaders detained without charge,” acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, told reporters.

Earlier this month too, the US had called the visit of its Ambassador Ken Juster and diplomats from 15 other countries to Kashmir an “important step”.

The group of diplomats made a two-day visit to the Union Territory on Thursday and Friday to see the conditions there after Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status was removed last August.

While some US politicians and media have criticised the action by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the US has officially appeared to support the abrogation of the Constitution’s Article 370 on the special status.

This is said to be the first time New Delhi has invited official representatives of foreign governments to visit Srinagar since the Parliament revoked Article 370.

Meanwhile, Alice Wells has just returned from a trip India for the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi.

The top foreign official said that the visit “offered opportunity to hear more on developments with regard to India’s CAA, that is undergoing vigorous democratic scrutiny, be it in the streets by political opposition, media or the courts”.

Speaking on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in her briefing, she said the US stresses on the principle of equal protection under the law.

“We continue to underscore the importance of the principle of equal protection under the law,” Wells said.

The top American diplomat, further in her press briefing, said that India is moving away from having a passive foreign policy to the one vigorously advancing its interests, attributing the trend to New Delhi’s “broadening strategic horizons” over the past two decades.

“It’s clear that India’s broadening strategic horizons over the past two decades have resulted in a shift away from a passive foreign policy to the one that advances Indian interests more vigorously,” she said adding that nowhere this shift is more visible than in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Whether it’s in our growing maritime and naval cooperation, the Quad, India’s Act East Policy, there’s virtually no daylight in our approaches to the Indo-Pacific,” she said. Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger’s remarks at Raisina Dialogue endorsing an Indo-Pacific region stretching from California to Kilimanjaro only further reinforced the strategic convergence, she added.

While in New Delhi, she had meetings with her Indian counterparts, which she said were focused on how to build on the diplomatic and defence gains achieved during the 2+2 ministerial dialogue last December. With continued progress on defense cooperation, peacekeeping operations, space, counterterrorism, trade, people-to-people initiatives, and more, she said the quality and frequency of India-US naval cooperation, especially the information sharing, have reached unprecedented levels. The two countries also remain focused on achieving a trade deal that promotes fairness and reciprocity, she noted.