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Bipartisan US senators ask Pompeo to talk Kashmir, CAA with Modi: Trump's visit

By Rajiv Shah
Ahead of President Donald Trump's much publicised India visit, which includes a visit to Ahmedabad on February 24, a bipartisan group of American senators have written to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing concerns and seeking State Department assessments on India's "crackdown" in Kashmir and the controversial citizenship law.
A New York-based digital news site, Axios, said this "matters" as, Trump, heading to India later this month, "rather than pressure Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Kashmir crackdown during their last appearance together, in Houston, praised him (Modi)."
Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment, a Washington-based think tank, is quoted as stating that the visit is expected to "essentially going to provide a similar kind of air cover for Modi”, at a time when he is facing all-round flak for Kashmir and the citizenship law.
Not without reason, Trump said he expected in Ahmedabad “5–7 million people just from the airport to the new stadium" (see video below) just greet him in Ahmedabad. Ironically, Ahmedabad's population is 5.6 million, though government sources suggest, a little more than a lakh people are estimated to greet the US president. Significantly, Trump quotes this figure stating Modi told this to him.
The senators -- who include Republicans Lindsey Graham and Todd Young, and Democrats Chris Van Hollen and Dick Durbin -- have written that Modi's twin steps "threaten the rights of certain religious minorities and the secular character of the state." They described the events in Jammu and Kashmir, "India's only Muslim-majority state, as 'troubling'."
The bipartisan letter said, "More than six months after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government unilaterally revoked the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, the government continues to block most internet in the region."
It added, India has now imposed the longest-ever internet shut down by a democracy, disrupting access to medical care, business, and education for seven million people. Hundreds of Kashmiris remain in 'preventive detention,' including key political figures."
Also mentioning the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which would "give religious minorities from India's neighbours a fast-track to citizenship — but not Muslims", the letter apprehends that as a result of this law, people --'in particular religious or ethnic minorities -- could be rendered stateless, deported or locked up as a result of the citizenship law.
Talking about "excessive use of force by Indian authorities" against people protesting that law, the Axios report says, "Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party dominate Indian politics ... have taken swift action on their Hindu nationalist agenda since winning a landslide election last May. That has led to fierce backlash on the streets and in India's elite universities as fears grow that India's status as a secular democracy is under threat."
The senators also ask Pompeo for assessments on the number of political detainees in Kashmir, whether they had been subjected to torture
The senators also seek Pompeo's "assessments" on the number of political detainees in Kashmir, whether they had been subjected to "torture or other forms of mistreatment, restrictions on internet and cell service in Kashmir, restrictions on access for foreign diplomats, journalists and observers in Kashmir, and restrictions on religious freedom in Kashmir."

India's special status dropped

Significantly, The Trump visit to India is taking place ahead of US treating China as developing countries for trade benefits. A report from Geneva says, Trump administration has "narrowed its list of developing countries to reduce threshold for triggering investigation into unfairly subsidised exports."
Pointing out that this is being done "in order to reduce the threshold for triggering a US investigation into whether nations are harming U.S. industries with unfairly subsidized exports", the report quotes a US Trade Representative as saying the Trump administration has also eliminated its special preferences for Albania, Argentina;, Armenia, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Georgia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand. Ukraine and Vietnam.
The US official said the decision to revise its developing country methodology for countervailing duty investigations was necessary because America’s previous guidance — which dates back to 1998 — “is now obsolete”. The report adds, "The development marks a noteworthy departure from two decades of American trade policy regarding developing nations that could result in more stringent penalties for some of the world’s top exporters."
It adds, "The move also reflects President Donald Trump’s frustration that large economies like China and India are permitted to receive preferential trade benefits as developing nations at the World Trade Organization."

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