US senator refused permission to visit Indian-held Kashmir
NEW DELHI: India has refused permission to United States Senator Chris Van Hollen to visit Indian-held Kashmir on his recent trip to India, publication Washington Post reported.
Van Hollen is one of nearly 50 members of Congress who have expressed concern over the situation and the clampdown in restive regions that has entered its third month.
Indian authorities have deployed thousands of additional troops, shut down Internet access and mobile phone service, arrested more than 3,000 people and detained nearly all of the region’s political leadership.
Van Hollen, a Democrat who represents Maryland, said he asked to go to Indian-held Kashmir so he could see the reality on the ground for himself.
“If the Indian government has nothing to hide, they should not worry about people visiting Kashmir and witnessing the situation with their own eyes,” Van Hollen said in an interview on Friday in New Delhi.
As the world’s two largest democracies, India and the United States “talk a lot about our shared values,” he said. “I think this is a moment where transparency is important.”
Last month, Van Hollen proposed an amendment to an appropriations bill that referred explicitly to the restrictions implemented by India encouraging “enhanced engagement with India on issues of mutual interest,”
It also noted “with concern the current humanitarian crisis in Kashmir” and called on the Indian government to restore communications and release detainees.
The amendment was adopted unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the bill is likely to receive a full vote in the Senate in the next several weeks.
No foreign journalists have received permission from the Indian government to report in Kashmir since August 5.
Later this month, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on human rights in South Asia, in which Kashmir will be a focus.
“There’s a lot going on in Washington, but I believe concern is rising about the situation in Kashmir,” said Van Hollen, adding that his conversations during his visit to India “have only heightened” such concerns.