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Senior U.S. Official Presses India To Ease Kashmir Restrictions

Alice Wells, the top U.S. State Department official for South Asia, called on India to ease restrictions in Kashmir.
Alice Wells, the top U.S. State Department official for South Asia, called on India to ease restrictions in Kashmir.

A senior U.S. diplomat says Washington wants India to quickly ease restrictions imposed in the area it administers in the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir.

"We hope to see rapid action -- the lifting of the restrictions and the release of those who have been detained," Alice Wells, the top State Department official for South Asia, told reporters om September 26.

Wells also said U.S. President Donald Trump "was willing to mediate if asked by both parties," although she acknowledged that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rejected any outside involvement in the decades-long dispute.

Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-led India have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, two of which were over control of Kashmir, the divided region claimed by both countries in its entirety.

Trump, who met separately with Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan a day earlier, has several times offered himself up as a mediator, a suggestion that the Pakistani side has welcomed.

Speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, Trump said he told the two leaders, "'Fellas, work it out. Just work it out.'"

"Those are two nuclear countries. They've got to work it out," he added.

Tensions between the two rivals escalated after Modi on August 5 revoked the special status of the Indian-administered portion of Kashmir.

Indian authorities imposed a widespread curfew in the region, cutting off residents from all communications and the Internet amid reports of mass arrests, protests, and food shortages.

Wells said that "the United States is concerned by widespread detentions, including those of politicians and business leaders, and the restrictions on the residents of [the region]."

"We look forward to the Indian government's resumption of political engagement with local leaders and the scheduling of the promised elections at the earliest opportunity," she said.

Wells said the United States has raised concerns over Kashmir "at the highest levels," without saying if Trump brought up the issue directly with Modi.

The U.S. president met Modi in Houston on September 21 for a rally before some 50,000 Indian-Americans, with both leaders heaping praise on each other.

With reporting by AFP
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