NEW YORK                  -            The United States should exercise its moral authority and help secure freedom for the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir, now languishing under a repressive lockdown since August 5, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Asad Khan has said.

“Real people are dying both in Kashmir, and now across India’s cities, because of India’s actions – actions motivated by an extremist, xenophobic, anti-Muslim ideology that seeks to realise a vision of a Greater India,” the Pakistan envoy wrote in The Hill, a top US political website, obviously referring to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s discriminatory policies.

“Ultimately, standing by India in Kashmir means standing by that vision – and going against the core values of the United States of America,” he wrote in his opinion piece, while reaffirming Pakistan’s support to the the Kashmiris’ just struggle for their UN-pledged right of self-determination.

Ambassador Khan’s article appeared on Thursday as members of the US Congress prepared to return to Washington after their Christmas Holidays. “As Americans everywhere celebrated the holidays, India’s lockdown and military siege of Occupied-Kashmir will have been going on for nearly 150 days, the Pakistani envoy wrote.

“Since its beginning on Aug. 5, when India revoked the region’s special autonomous status, the siege has had devastating effects on Kashmiris,” he said, citing facts and figures of the social and economic losses.

“However,” the Pakistani envoy wrote, “despite widespread criticism from global human rights groups, editorial boards, and within the Congress, some in the US may still believe that India is a good faith, credible actor when it comes to Kashmir, and that Kashmir is an ‘internal’ matter for India to handle.

“But this analysis of the situation, which has precipitated an unparalleled humanitarian crisis and brought a nuclear-armed region to the brink of conflict, misses the mark.

“For one, India’s credibility on Kashmir went out the window when it decided to unilaterally abrogate the rights of millions of Muslim Kashmiris, ignore decades of international law, pour hundreds of thousands of regular troops into the region, and then thumb its nose at the near universal international condemnation that followed.

“Any faith in India’s credibility as a force for good in Kashmir is misplaced. The people of Kashmir have lived in an unending state of siege for close to five months now. To date, foreign observers, journalists, and even sitting members of Congress have been refused entry into the region.

“Instead, India has been caught red-handed engaging in one of the largest cyber-war campaigns of fake news and disinformation ever to gaslight the international community and obscure what many US members of Congress have rightly called a dire humanitarian crisis in Kashmir.

“Second, it has been Pakistan, not India, that has continued to extend one peaceful overture after another, only to be rebuffed. Last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan came into office with an offer that Pakistan would take two steps toward peace for every step India took. Instead, India is now trying to annex Kashmir.

“In November, Pakistan opened the Kartarpur Corridor, specifically to allow easy access for Indian Sikh pilgrims to Sikh holy sites in Pakistan. In return, India was handing over Muslim holy sites, like the Babri Mosque, for Hindu extremists to tear down and, more egregiously, excluding Muslims as citizens under Indian law.

“In short, trusting India with the welfare of religious minorities, is to condemn them all to marginalisation, disenfranchisement and worse at the hands of India’s nationalist ruling party, BJP.

“Third, Kashmir is an international issue. It has been since 1948. It has been the subject of tens of UN Security Council resolutions, specifically stating that Kashmir is an international issue that needs to be resolved through a plebiscite and under international auspices. These are facts. This is why the international community has been universal in its condemnation of India.

“Pakistan will continue to extend moral political and diplomatic support to be the voice of Kashmiris at every forum. India’s disregard for universal human rights, the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, and the shameful humanitarian crisis it has set off in Kashmir are reasons enough for the whole world to be involved in ending this tragedy.

“Finally, and at the end of the day, this is not about Pakistan.

“The Indian peddled cliché that Pakistan supports terrorism in Kashmir is old, tired and repudiated. The families of thousands of Pakistani soldiers and civilians martyred at the hands of terrorists since 9/11 will tell you what we’ve sacrificed in the face of terror. Many members of Congress, like Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (a Democrat), agree – Pakistan is playing a constructive, restrained role in de-escalating tensions in the region, including efforts to help end America’s longest war, in Afghanistan.

“This is about the people of Kashmir who continue to suffer, going on five months now, under a relentless assault by India on every facet of their future as a people. Shut down schools, maternity wards, hospitals, internet cafes, public spaces, media outlets, houses of worship, and even the streets. For them, in the face of what the BJP is doing, this is an existential issue.

“So, the United States should be engaged, and should exercise its moral authority in Kashmir, but to stop India and to help secure freedom for the people of Kashmir.”