US will continue to support ‘direct’ Indo-Pak talks on Kashmir and other issues: Official

The US will continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern, a State Department official has said while urging for calm and restraint along the LoC. The US is also closely following Indias legislation regarding the new territorial status and governance of Jammu and Kashmir and its broader implications, the official said on Wednesday. The Indian Parliament on Tuesday approved a resolution abrogating special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and a bill for splitting the state into two Union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Reacting to Indias move, Pakistan expelled the Indian envoy and downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Delhi. Also read| We note the broader implications of these developments, including the potential for increased instability in the region, a State Department spokesperson told PTI. India has maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and the issue of withdrawing special status to the state and its bifurcation are strictly internal to the country. We continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern, the State Department spokesperson said. The official was responding to a question on the situation in South Asia after Pakistan on Wednesday expelled Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria and downgraded the diplomatic ties with India over what it called New Delhis unilateral and illegal move to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. India had also rejected any mediation effort by US President Donald Trump on the Kashmir issue. New Delhi has consistently maintained that there is no room for a third party mediation on Kashmir. The State Department spokesperson said that the US calls for calm and restraint by all parties. US this week had also said there was an urgent need for dialogue among all actors to reduce tensions and to avoid a potential military escalation in South Asia. The spokesperson also expressed concern over detention of people in Jammu and Kashmir, saying, We continue to be concerned by reports of detentions and the continued restrictions on the residents of Jammu and Kashmir. We urge respect for individual rights, compliance with legal procedures, and inclusive dialogue with those affected. The US, the spokesperson said, calls on all parties to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control, including taking firm and resolute steps to combat cross-border terrorism. Early this year, tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmirs Pulwama district. Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured Indian pilot, who was handed over to India on March 1.