India on Thursday said many positive changes in terms of development had taken place in Jammu and Kashmir in the past one year which reflected the return of "complete normalcy" in the region.
India’s comment was in the context of a letter written by the Chairman and Ranking Member of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs Elliott Engel to Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar expressing concern over the situation in the region, a year after Article 370 – which gave special status to the region -- was revoked. The state was also bifurcated into two union territories administered from New Delhi.
Asked about the letter, dated 5 August, and the reference to Jammu and Kashmir in it, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said, "There have been several positive changes in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir over the past one year, be it in terms of ensuring good governance or socio-economic development or justice to the disadvantaged sections of the population."
Elections, he said, had been held to block development councils in October 2019, the first-ever winter games at the local level held in March 2020, schools re-opened, new educational facilities established, better healthcare with new facilities coming up and infrastructure development picking up, he said. Long pending projects too have been completed, he said, summing up the positive developments in the past year.
"So, all this certainly reflects a return to complete normalcy. We continue to be engaged with and brief our interlocutors including the (US) Congress in this regard and we will be happy to brief the (US) Congress," Srivastava told reporters in New Delhi,
The letter to Jaishankar, signed by Engel and Michael T McCaul, a Ranking Member of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, had said that as “champions of the US-India relationship, we have been delighted to see our countries' close cooperation on issues from defense to climate change." This, Srivastava said, reflects strong bipartisan support for India in the US.
According to Engel, "It is because of our support for the bilateral relationship that we note with concern that conditions in Jammu and Kashmir have not normalized one year after India's repeal of Article 370 and the establishment of Jammu and Kashmir as a Union Territory."
To a question on whether India has briefed friendly countries on Jammu and Kashmir on the first anniversary of the Indian government’s decision to revoke the special status of the region, Srivastava said Indian envoys in various countries keep meeting their interlocutors and briefing them.
"During their briefings, they brief about the socio-economic changes and the development that has taken place in Jammu and Kashmir. Briefings are given on important steps taken by our government in the sectors of education, health and infrastructure development and in other sectors which have brought about a change in the lives of the common people," he added.