Remain Concerned Over J&K Detentions, Internet Block: US State Department

Since August, Kashmir has been under severe restrictions - including one of the world's longest internet shutdowns - intended to stop a backlash and maintain order.

Foreign diplomats from 15 countries had visited Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.

Highlights

  • US called recent visit to J&K by foreign envoys an "important step"
  • Envoys from 15 countries visited Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday
  • Since August, Kashmir has been under severe restrictions
New Delhi:

The US State Department on Saturday called the recent visit by foreign envoys of 15 nations to Jammu and Kashmir - under unprecedented restrictions since last year - an "important step" but said it remained "concerned" by the detention of political leaders and residents, and the Internet blackout.

"Closely following @USAmbIndia & other foreign diplomats' recent trip to Jammu & Kashmir. Important step. We remain concerned by detention of political leaders and residents, and Internet restrictions. We look forward to a return to normalcy," US State Department's Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs tweeted on Saturday night.

Foreign diplomats from 15 countries visited Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday for the first time since the central government revoked its special status in August and changed it to a union territory. Some European nations and others declined to go after being refused permission to travel independently.

Since August, Kashmir has been under severe restrictions - including one of the world's longest internet shutdowns - intended to stop a backlash and maintain order.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the diplomats got "to see first-hand the efforts that have been made by the government to normalise the situation".

The trip included meetings with the army, politicians, civil society groups and journalists selected by the security services.

The diplomats were not given access to Omar Abdullah or Mehbooba Mufti - former Chief Ministers and the leaders of the two political parties that have historically dominated Jammu and Kashmir's politics - who remain under detention.

The ambassadors who visited Jammu and Kashmir came from smaller nations such as Togo, Niger and Guyana. Countries in the European Union and India's allies in the Middle East did not go on the trip.

On Friday, the Supreme Court said that an indefinite shutdown of the internet in Kashmir was illegal, rebuking the government for the communications lockdown.

Internet suspensions can be imposed only for "temporary duration" and an indefinite suspension violated India's telecoms rules, the court said. It also ordered authorities to review all such curbs in Kashmir immediately.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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