United States hopes to see rapid action on lifting Kashmir curbs
Alice Wells, the acting assistant secretary of state for South Asia, referred to a plan laid out by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for restoring political life in Jammu and Kashmir after India last month removed the decades-old autonomy it had enjoyed under India's constitution.
"I think we are interested in knowing the next steps," she told reporters. "We hope to see rapid action in the lifting of restrictions and the release of those who have been detained."
Wells added that "a lowering of rhetoric would be welcome, particularly between two nuclear powers."
Muslim-majority Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. Both countries rule parts of Kashmir while claiming it in full. Two of the three wars they have fought have been over it.
Partition of India: The way forward
On 15 August 1947, British India split into two nations – Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. The two countries continue to be hostile towards each other despite some efforts to improve bilateral ties. By Shamil Shams
Birth of two nations: in 1947, British India was divided into two countries – India and Pakistan. Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his All-India Muslim League party had first demanded autonomy for Muslim-majority areas in the undivided India and only later a separate country for Muslims. Jinnah believed that Hindus and Muslims could not continue to live together, as they were distinctly different "nations"
The line of blood: the partition of British India was extremely violent. Following the birth of India and Pakistan, violent communal riots began in many western areas, mostly in Punjab. Historians say that more than a million people died in clashes and millions more migrated from Indian territory to Pakistan and from the Pakistani side to India
The 1948 war: India and Pakistan clashed over Kashmir soon after their independence. The Muslim-majority Kashmir region was ruled by a Hindu leader, but Jinnah wanted it to be part of Pakistani territory. Indian and Pakistani troops fought in Kashmir in 1948, with India taking control of most part of the valley, while Pakistan occupied a smaller area. India and Pakistan continue to clash over Kashmir
Like U.S. and Canada? Liberal historians say that Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi wanted cordial ties between newly independent states. Jinnah, for instance, believed that ties between India and Pakistan should be similar to those between the US and Canada. But after his death in 1948, his successors followed a collision course with New Delhi
The 'other': Indian and Pakistani governments present very different accounts of partition. While India emphasises the Indian National Congress' freedom movement against British rulers – with Gandhi as its main architect – Pakistani textbooks focus on a "struggle" against both British and Hindu "oppression". State propaganda in both countries paints each other as an "enemy" that cannot be trusted
Worsening ties: diplomatic ties between India and Pakistan have remained acrimonious for the past seven decades. The issue of Islamist terrorism has marred relations in the last few years, with New Delhi accusing Islamabad of backing Islamist jihadists to wage a war in India-administered Kashmir. India also blames Pakistan-based groups for launching terror attacks on Indian soil. Islamabad denies these claims
The way forward: many young people in both India and Pakistan are urging their governments to improve bilateral ties. Islamabad-based documentary filmmaker Wajahat Malik believes the best way for India and Pakistan to develop a closer relationship is through more interaction between their peoples. "Trade and tourism are the way forward for us. When people come together, the states will follow suit"
Wells spoke after U.S. President Donald Trump met separately with both Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
The previous day Khan had urged Trump in a meeting to use U.S. influence to help end India's "siege" of the volatile territory.
In its clampdown in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, which has a Muslim-majority, India flooded the territory - already one of the world's most militarised zones - with troops, imposed severe restrictions on movements and cut all telephone, mobile phone and Internet connections. Thousands of people were arrested.
New Delhi has since eased some of the curbs, although no prominent detainees have been freed and mobile and Internet connections remain suspended.
Trump this week reiterated that he would be willing to mediate between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Wells said Modi had made clear he was not seeking mediation. (Reuters)