ISLAMABAD - Member of US House of Representatives Thomas R Suozzi, in a letter to Secretary State Department Michael Pompeo, has expressed concern over the prevailing situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir describing it a potential flashpoint for conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan.

“My Pakistani-American and Kashmiri-American constituents have long brought the issue of Kashmir to my attention. I write today with grave concern over the current situation in Kashmir and Jammu — a potential flashpoint for conflict between nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan, which have a long history of tension and war. “Please advise me what steps you intend to take to address this situation for the people of Kashmir and Jammu,” he stated in the letter dated August 9.

For decades, he said that unrest in Held Kashmir had been simmering. He had consulted with experts in the area and administration, and it appeared that the United States was intensely interested in securing Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan, he added.

“The point made to me repeatedly was that there could be no attention paid to the problems in Kashmir on the eastern border with India until the Western border was sufficiently addressed,” the US Congressman said.

Now, Suozzi said, he was concerned that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent actions in Kashmir had contributed to tensions, which were now higher than ever, and Kashmir must become a major focus of the administration.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to the United States demonstrates that our countries are now working together to counter terrorism and on other security issues along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. The Indian government’s recent actions in the territories of Jammu and Kashmir demand that we also focus on this area as well,” he said.

On Monday August 5, 2019, he said that the Indian government revoked Article 370 of India’s Constitution, a provision that had been in place since 1949 to guarantee the State of Jammu and Kashmir a special status with its own Constitution, flag and autonomy over almost all matters other than defence and foreign affairs.

“In taking this step, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi cut off Internet and communications services to the State, placed hundreds of political leaders under house arrest, imposed a curfew on the millions of residents of the State, and deployed tens of thousands of Indian troops into the State, who joined several hundred thousand troops already deployed in one of the most militarised locations in the world,” he said.

Suozzi said that hundreds of American citizens visiting the territory had been left stranded with limited options to communicate and leave the territory, and the Kashmiri families of thousands of American citizens remained cut off from communication with their families and under the Martial Law.

“I am concerned about the safety of our citizens and their families, as well as the human rights of all Kashmiris, who are impacted by these measures.”

He said that the Indian government’s action risked provoking mass social unrest, as the people of Kashmir had long sought greater autonomy, freedoms, and the opportunity for self-determination.

“These new restrictions on the autonomy of the State and the rights of Kashmiris could also embolden extremists and terrorists to act.”

The US Congressman also quoted the April 2019 New York Times article titled “Under Modi, a Hindu Nationalist Surge Has Further Divided India” which stated, “Mr Modi’s supporters state that the Prime Minister and his allies are simply restoring Hinduism to its rightful place at the core of Indian society. They argue that there is nothing wrong with emphasising India’s Hindu history and traditions in a more muscular way.”

Many experts, he said, had warned that the Modi government’s move could embolden Hindu nationalists to engage in acts of violence and discrimination against India’s minority religious groups, including Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, who were facing increasing attacks throughout the country.

He asked Pompeo to share what actions the US government intended to take in that situation and offered his assistance to defuse the tension.

“We must, as you know, hold true to our values of respecting the human rights of all people, including religious minorities, and we must use our influence to encourage our allies to do the same. We also must do all we can to help prevent a violent confrontation,” he added.