New Delhi: The Democratic presidential frontrunner Bernie Sanders has waded into the Kashmir issue, calling for the United States to support a UN-backed peaceful resolution in the region.
Speaking at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America in Houston Saturday said he is “deeply concerned about the situation” in Jammu and Kashmir where there is a communication lockdown since the Modi government announced its decision to abrogate Article 370 on 5 August.
“The communication blockade must be lifted immediately and the US government must speak out boldly in support of international humanitarian law and in support of an UN-backed peaceful resolution that supports the will of Kashmiri people,” Sanders said.
Sanders’ statements come just days after US President Donald Trump is believed to have discussed Jammu and Kashmir “at great length” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G7 summit at Biarritz in France.
While Trump has sought to balance his stand on Kashmir, seeking to ensure that he antagonises neither India nor Pakistan, Sanders has been a lot more direct and unequivocal in his criticism of the alleged human rights violations in the Valley.
Trump’s about-turn on the Kashmir issue has been a talking point in both India and Pakistan. A month ago, standing right next to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Trump offered mediation on Kashmir. Last week, sitting next to Prime Minister Modi in Biarritz, he said he would rather the two countries resolve the matter bilaterally.
Kashmir on the US agenda
In the mid-1990s, when the Kashmir insurgency peaked, Kashmir had become a pet subject of the US administration. From the assistant secretary of state for South Asia at the time, Robin Raphel, contesting the Instrument of Accession that the Kashmir maharaja had signed, the US moved to a middle path, saying that India and Pakistan must resolve the issue in accordance with “the wishes of the Kashmir people”.
A second and third potential flashpoint over Kashmir was averted during India-Pakistan’s nuclear tests in 1998 and the Kargil conflict the following year.
Over the years, however, relations between the two countries improved with India and the US signing the nuclear deal in 2008.
Even before he was elected, the then-Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama in 2008, one month before the Mumbai attacks, had made the link between Kashmir and Afghanistan-Pakistan and pointed out that the US should try a “facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try and resolve the Kashmir crisis…”
With Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, however, President Obama soon toned down his rhetoric.
In 2011, Clinton’s famous quote about Pakistan keeping “snakes in the backyard” that sometimes come back to bite it made the headlines. Kashmir was then firmly put in the category of being a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.