India on Thursday said it was regrettable that a few members of the US Congress used a congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia to question the measures taken recently to safeguard lives and maintain peace in Kashmir, adding that the American lawmakers showed a limited understanding of India’s democracy.
This was the first official response to Tuesday’s four-and-a-half-hour congressional hearing in which US lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — grilled State Department officials on the situation in Kashmir, forcing the American administration to admit that there is a “humanitarian crisis” in the state and also condemn the Citizenship amendment bill.
Foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said at the weekly briefing in response to questions on the hearing: “It is regrettable that a few members of the US Congress used a congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia to question the measures taken recently to safeguard life, peace and security in Kashmir. These comments display a very limited understanding of India’s history, her pluralistic history, constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right for all India citizens, and the robust institutions operating in the world’s largest democracy.
“We feel that the hearing should have been used to ascertain the facts on state sponsored cross border terrorism affecting Kashmir which endangers the most fundamental of human rights, namely the right to life. The government remains responsible for and responsive to the safety and well-being of its citizens.”
As for the remarks of the State Department officials, the ministry has chosen to keep its focus on what they said in their written presentations and not the comments that were drawn out of them during the two sessions.
Stating that India is regularly updating the US on the situation, Kumar said: “We have urged our interlocutors to bear in mind the aspect of cross-border terrorism from Pakistan while forming an opinion of the situation. We take note of the statement of administration officials that Pakistan needs to do much more against terrorism.”
India has secured an assurance from the UK that every effort will be made to ensure that the Kashmir-related protests being planned in London on Diwali will not affect the Indian high commission. The protesters have been assigned two spots in London to hold the protests in an effort to prevent the kind of vandalism that happened at the mission during the previous protest on September 3.
India also described as “unacceptable” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s statement that he would not retract his critical remarks at the UN General Assembly on Kashmir despite Indian traders calling for a ban on import of palm oil from his country.
“We hope that the Government of Malaysia will do a serious introspection on the position they have taken on this,’’ Kumar said, pleading ignorance about any decision by the government by way of a reaction to Mahathir’s adverse remarks.
As for the import boycott call by India’s top vegetable oil trade body, he added: “The decision to import any commodity is the prerogative of the importing company but at the same time they are not impervious to the state of affairs between any two countries.”
On Turkey — another country that has been critical of India’s actions in Kashmir -— Kumar maintained that India expects Ankara to take into account the realities and show a better understanding before making any further statement on the issue.
In a separate briefing on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia on October 29, secretary (economic relations) T.S. Tirumurti said Riyadh had shown understanding on the recent developments vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir. “And, I am sure that their stand has had a salutary effect on Pakistan,” he said in response to question on Saudi Arabia’s position on Kashmir, given the kingdom’s ties with Pakistan.