The US State Department called the recent visit of foreign envoys from 15 nations to Jammu and Kashmir – with unprecedented restrictions since last year – as an "important move," but said it remains "concerned" about the detention of political leaders and residents , and the internet blackout.
"After the recent trip from @USAmbIndia & other foreign diplomats to Jammu & Kashmir. Important step. We are still concerned about the imprisonment of political leaders and residents and about internet restrictions. We look forward to returning to normal," said the U.S. Department of State South and Central Asia tweeted Saturday night.
Followed closely @USAmbIndia & other foreign diplomats recently traveled to Jammu & Kashmir. Important step. We remain concerned about the imprisonment of political leaders and residents and about internet restrictions. We look forward to a return to normal. AGW
– State_SCA (@State_SCA) January 11, 2020
Foreign diplomats from 15 countries visited Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday for the first time since the central government lifted its special status in August and converted it into a union area. Some European nations and others refused to travel after being denied permission to travel independently.
Since August, Kashmir has been subject to stringent restrictions – including one of the longest Internet shutdowns in the world – to stop a backlash and maintain order.
State Department spokesman Raveesh Kumar said diplomats had "seen firsthand the government's efforts to normalize the situation."
The trip included meetings with the army, politicians, civil society groups and journalists selected by the security services.
Diplomats were denied access to Omar Abdullah or Mehbooba Mufti – the former ministers and leaders of the two political parties who have dominated Jammu and Kashmiri politics in the past – who are still detained.
The ambassadors who visited Jammu and Kashmir came from smaller nations such as Togo, Niger and Guyana. Countries in the European Union and India's allies in the Middle East have not started the trip.
On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that an unlimited Internet shutdown in Kashmir was illegal and reprimanded the government for blocking communications.
Internet suspensions can only be imposed for "temporary duration," and an indefinite suspension violates India's telecommunications rules, the court said. She also ordered that all such curbs in Kashmir be checked immediately.
(With contributions from Reuters)