Van Hollen, a Democrat who represents Maryland, said he asked to go to Kashmir so he could see the reality on the ground for himself.
“If the Indian government has nothing to hide, they should not worry about people visiting Kashmir and witnessing the situation with their own eyes,” Van Hollen said in an interview Friday in New Delhi.
As the world’s two largest democracies, India and the United States “talk a lot about our shared values,” he said. “I think this is a moment where transparency is important.”
Last month, Van Hollen proposed an amendment to an appropriations bill that referred explicitly to the restrictions implemented by India. While encouraging “enhanced engagement with India on issues of mutual interest,” it also noted “with concern the current humanitarian crisis in Kashmir” and called on the Indian government to restore communications and release detainees.
A spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on the amendment. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Home Affairs did not respond to a query about Van Hollen’s inability to visit Kashmir.
In recent weeks, India has eased some restrictions in the Kashmir Valley, which is home to 7 million people. Landline connections are now functioning, albeit fitfully, and constraints on movement are intermittent rather than total. But mobile service and Internet connections are cut off.
Since Aug. 5, several politicians from elsewhere in the country have been turned back by the authorities when they attempted to visit Kashmir. Two politicians petitioned India’s Supreme Court to visit, but they were not free to travel where they wanted. One said that he was prevented from speaking with Kashmir residents
No foreign journalists have received permission from the Indian government to report in Kashmir since Aug. 5, although Indian citizens who work for foreign news organizations, including The Washington Post, have been able to report from the region.
“There’s a lot going on in Washington, but I believe concern is rising about the situation in Kashmir,” said Van Hollen. His conversations during his two-day visit to India “have only heightened” such concerns.
Niha Masih contributed to this report.