VISITING US Congressman Ami Bera, who is Chairman of House Foreign Affairs sub-committee on Asia-Pacific in the US Congress, on Wednesday said it is their desire and interest to see a resolution and return to normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir, and that he expressed his “concerns” on “continued detention of political leaders in Kashmir” during a meeting with Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
Bera and US Congressman George Holding, who is member of House Ways and Means Committee and co-chairs the India Caucus, are on a two-day visit and met Shringla.
“I express(ed) some of my concerns about continued detention of political leaders in Kashmir, and again expressed that the quicker India can return to normalcy in Kashmir, we feel it’s in their interest,” Bera said.
On his concerns, Amerish Babulal “Ami” Bera, a Democrat Congressman who traces his roots from Gujarat, said New Delhi has cited “security concerns” on the continued detention of Kashmiri leaders.
He said India is a “valuable partner” of the US, and that partnership is rooted in shared values of democracy, free market opportunities, and “protecting minority rights”.
Holding, a Republican Congressman, said he firmly believes that “the way to success in Kashmir is increasing economic opportunities and economic development”.
Asked whether they had sought permission to visit J&K, Bera said, “I would love to visit Kashmir…we did express that we would like to take a delegation (of members of US Congress) to Kashmir at some point.”
Holding said he is “heartened to hear that they are going to roll out an economic development plan” in Kashmir, and “provide economic incentives for their investment infrastructure investment there, which obviously raise prospects and prosperity”.
Bera also said India’s founding as a secular democracy, where “800 million Hindus can live with 200-plus million Muslims and other religious minorities, and somehow work”, is its strength. “And we don’t want to see India lose that secular democracy, (as) that’s what sets it apart from other countries in the region,” he said.
On protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), Bera said this is “democracy in action”, and the “tools of democracy in India are vibrant”, as it has an “independent judiciary”.
Holding called India a “mature and sophisticated democracy”.
Bera, when asked about External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s refusal to meet with US Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, said he has had “private conversation” with the minister, but it is “important to keep lines of communication open on Kashmir and CAA as we do believe in the secular strength of India’s democracy”. He said the fact that Democrats criticised India means that “they care for India…that’s what friends are for — friends are honest.”
Jayapal has been critical of India’s policies on Kashmir, CAA and NRC in the recent months.
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