A top Indian diplomat in the United States has said that the Kashmiri Pandits could return to the Valley soon because ‘if the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it’, sparking a controversy by mentioning the Israeli 'model'.
During a private event in the city that was attended by some members of the Kashmiri Pandit diaspora, India's Consul General in New York Sandeep Chakravorty spoke about the Abrogation of Article 370.
"I believe the security conditions in Jammu and Kashmir will improve. It will allow refugees to go back and in your lifetime, you will be able to go back...you will be able to go back to your home and you will find security. Because we already have a model in the world," he said, in an apparent reference to the Israeli settlement model.
"I don't know why we don't follow it. It has happened in the Middle East, you have to look, if the Israeli people can do it. We can also do it," he said in remarks that were recorded and then uploaded on social media.
His remarks sparked a controversy with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan targeting the Indian government over its Kashmir policy.
Reacting to the controversy, Chakravorty said that his remarks about Jammu and Kashmir and a reference to the Israeli issue have been taken out of context.
"I have seen some social media comments on my recent remarks. My remarks are being taken out of context," Chakravorty tweeted on Wednesday.
Israel has built about 140 settlements since its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967.
The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law.
The US recently said that it no longer believes the Israeli settlements are illegal.
In his remarks during the meeting with the Kashmiri Pandits, Chakravorty also said that people have been talking about the Kashmiri culture.
Referring to a comment made by a guest on the Israeli issue and Jewish issue, he said, "They kept their culture alive for 2000 years outside the land and they went back. I think we all have to keep the Kashmiri culture alive. The Kashmiri culture is the Indian culture, it is the Hindu culture."
"None of us can imagine an India without Kashmir," he said.
He further said that he believes that in his lifetime, ‘we will have our land back, our people have to go back…Give us some time, the government has done what it has done’.
On August 5, India abrogated the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke Jammu and Kashmir's special status and bifurcated it into two union territories.
The Indian government would not have taken such a big international risk only to do the amendment, Chakravorty said to applause.
It was an international diplomatic struggle but ‘we have successfully stalled it’, he added.
Pakistan reacted strongly to India's decision to abrogate Article 370 and downgraded bilateral ties and expelled the Indian envoy.
India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter.
It has also advised Pakistan to accept the reality and stop all anti-India propaganda.