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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2904

No Friends Of India In US Congress

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

To say that the US Congressional hearing on ‘Human Rights in South Asia: Views from the State Department and the Region’ on October 22 was deeply embarrassing for India is to state the obvious; whatmstood out was that India has an acute deficit of ‘friends’ among the US lawmakers who can offer even a modicum of defence when an important India-related issue is taken up for scrutiny.

It is a different matter that the government of India appeared rather nonchalant about what was said in the US Congress US officials at the hearing said that India has been ‘persistently’ and ‘urgently’ conveyed concern about the ‘humanitarian crisis’ in the valley, including the arrest of three ex- chief ministers and internet blackouts. The Indian government’s refusal to let US officials or Congress members visit Jammu and Kashmir was also emphasized.

The hearing in the US Congress may not alter the current state of India-US relations, which remain ‘good’ despite very obvious strains in trade ties and issues like visas for Indian techies. Israel often gets criticized in the Congress and other forums in the US but Washington has what may be called unshakable ties with the Jewish state. The main reason for that is surely the powerful Israel lobby in the US.

The comments made by some of the American lawmakers during the hearing may be of some note. The first Congress female member of Indian origin, Pramila Jayapal (Democrat), apart from speaking on Kashmir expressed her concern about religious freedom in India and said that she proposed to bring a bipartisan resolution on that.

Rep Ilhan Omar, a ‘celebrity’ for being among the first Muslim women to be elected to the House of Representative in 2017, also brought up, apart from Kashmir, the issue of NRC in Assam which she said has the potential to render nearly 2 million people stateless. She saw it similar to the origins of the Rohingya crisis. ‘At what point do we ask PM Modi whether he shares our values?’ she asked. Brad Sherman, who chaired the House Subcommittee on South Asia, wanted to know when the Indian government will allow ‘peaceful protests’ in Kashmir?

If New Delhi is to be believed the fairly large Indian diaspora in the US acts as a strong lobby for India. But that needs to be questioned because the Indian diaspora which has representation inside the Congress too has not been found effective lobbyist for India after its sterling performance in facilitating the nuclear deal. On the other hand, with a smaller and less influential diaspora, Pakistan seems to be doing better in the US in its efforts to denigrate India. For starters it has been able to see the US shed its hostility towards Pakistan despite its still dubious role in
curbing terror.

A special status of Jammu and Kashmir after 70 years, followed by arrests and lock down in the valley, were
extensively discussed. It did not exactly show the ‘world’s largest democracy’ in a favorable light in the US also be heard berating the country behind the root cause of continued trouble in Jammu and Kashmir.

Sure enough Pakistan did invite some reproving comments but it all amounted to reminding Pakistan that it had to ‘do more’ to dismantle its vast terror factory.Pakistan is long used to hearing such homilies and knows that this kind of advice can be dismissed out of hand, given the US desperation to seek its help to get out of Afghanistan.

The human rights record of Pakistan has been continuously poor. People in most of the provinces of Pakistan as well as those in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, are frequently subjected to brutalities. ‘Disappearance’ of dissidents is common in Pakistan. The treatment of minorities in Pakistan is several times worse than India. Yet these topics do not seem to figure prominently in US Congressional hearings. What is more, India fails to bring these issues to focus in the Congress or in other American forums.

There is an ‘India Caucus’ in the Congress and there is also a ‘Pakistan Caucus’ and some members are common to the two groups; a member of the ‘Pakistan Caucus’, Ro Khanna, has roots in India. The ‘caucus’ members do not automatically get to participate in Congressional hearings. But many in India will think it strange that when member after member and US administration officials question India’s action there is almost no one to suggest that much of the criticism, even if valid, should also allude to some of the key factors that make the Kashmir situation so very complex. Pramila Jayapal was unsparing in censuring the Indian action on the status of Jammu and Kashmir.

That should disappoint those in India who assume the ‘loyalty’ of the people of Indian origin settled abroad.
Before the Congressional hearing, some reports in the Indian media said that while taking up the Kashmir situation the question of ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Kashmiri Pandits would also be raised. The US calls itself the champion of human rights but in South Asia its concern seems to be confined to India not Pakistan. The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits does not concern the US Congress and the Indian government has been unable to do anything about it.

From the initial reports in the Indian media it would appear that Brad Sherman did say that he had ‘spoken’ about the Pandits. That does not amount to denunciation of the act of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the valley, undertaken by pro-Pakistan groups, that resulted in nearly all the Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) forced to flee their homes. Many were killed before they could escape.

- Asian Tribune -

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