(Image source from: Newsdig.in)
Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi issued a public apology on Monday for instigating outcry among the Indian American community following his last week’s provocative remarks on Jammu and Kashmir.
Apologizing for his letter addressed to United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding problems in Kashmir, he said, “it was a mistake not to consult with some of my Indian American friends and supporters" before writing the letter.
In a detailed letter, dated August 9, to Pompeo, Suozzi voiced his concerns focusing on the fact that "Kashmir was a potential flashpoint for conflict between India and Pakistan."
"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," he said in the letter.
The Congressman added he was concerned over the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "recent action in Kashmir had contributed to tensions that were now higher than ever."
"Prime Minister Imran Khan's recent visit to the U.S. demonstrates that our countries are now working together to counter-terrorism and other security-related 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.
"These new restrictions on the autonomy of the state and the rights of Kashmiris could also embolden extremists and terrorists to act," Suozzi further stated in the letter.
Read: Indian Americans Protest Congressman’s Remark over Kashmir
However, understanding that he could have framed his concerns in a different manner and could have sought the advice of the Indian American community, the Congressman issued a public apology on Monday.
"I am sorry. If I had met with them (people belonging to the Indian-American community in the U.S.) before sending the letter, I would have framed my concerns differently," he said in the new statement.
"Throughout my career in public service, I have been an ardent supporter of India, their sovereignty, and have always stood with them in their fight against terrorism. The U.S.-India relationship will be one of our most important over the next 50 years and beyond. I have spent my time in Congress promoting and elevating this relationship and will continue to do so," Suozzi said.
The Congressman, in his letter to Pompeo, had also pointed out human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir saying that the "Indian government's actions risk provoking mass social unrest, as the people of Kashmir have 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," he wrote.
However, Suozzi, on Monday in his apology statement stressed, "India, the world's largest democracy, remains critical for regional security and peace. The current situation in Kashmir presents some very serious challenges. The United States should seek to be helpful in securing safety and peace for all people."
"Moving forward, I will make sure to solicit the input of all of my constituents who have a vested interest in Kashmir and work towards a peaceful region that roots out terrorism and corruption as well as respects human rights. It is my hope, that recent developments in the region will eventually lead to this," he added.
Read: What Is Article 370? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
On August 5, the Indian government revoked Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir and passed a bill bifurcating them into two Union Territories, along with Ladakh, with effect from 31 October.
By Sowmya Sangam