US Senator who heads India caucus calls for removing curbs on Kashmir

US Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat who co-chairs the Senate India Caucus, on Tuesday joined a growing group of lawmakers, some of whom are strong supporters of ties with India, who have expressed concern over continuing restrictions in Kashmir and called for their withdrawal.

“While I understand India has legitimate security concerns, I am disturbed by its restrictions on communications and movement within Jammu and Kashmir,” Warner wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “I hope India will live up to its democratic principles by allowing freedom of press, information, and political participation.”

Warner’s remarks are important as he is the co-chair of the Senate India caucus and a staunch supporter of close US-India ties, who has moved many critical legislations promoting relations and petitioned the administration for crucial relief and help when needed.

The Senator from Virginia joins Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris — all three are candidates for the Democratic nomination for president — and many members of the House of Representatives to criticize restrictions imposed in Kashmir after the change in its constitutional status on August 5, as has the Trump administration.

This growing disquiet should worry New Delhi as it considers the US Congress as the only American institution to stand with India going back decades. And specially so in view of a congressional hearing coming up later in the month on Kashmir and other issues from the region.

Warren voiced her concerns past Sunday. “The US-India partnership has always been rooted in our shared democratic values,” she wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “I’m concerned about recent events in Kashmir, including a continued communications blackout and other restrictions. The rights of the people of Kashmir must be respected.”

Warren is a leading candidate for the party’s nomination, having surged in polls in recent weeks to overtake Senator Bernie Sanders. She is now a close second to former Vice-President Joe Biden, trailing the frontrunner 24% to 26.2% in the RealClearPolitics aggregate of polls.