Jaishankar skips meet with US K-policy critic

Jaishankar skips meet with US K-policy critic

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 20

The only blip in an otherwise satisfactory visit to the US was External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s inability to meet members of the US House Foreign Relations Committee, reportedly due to the possible presence of Pamila Jayapal, who has been extremely critical of New Delhi’s policy on Kashmir.

In an interaction with media after concluding the 2+2 meeting of Indo-US Defence and Foreign Ministers in Washington on Wednesday, Jaishankar touched obliquely on the issue. “I am aware of that (Congressional) resolution. I don’t think it’s a fair understanding of the situation in J&K, or a fair characterisation of what the government of India is doing. And I have no interest in meeting (Jayapal),” he said.

India expert Ashley Tellis termed the cancelled meeting as a “missed opportunity”. Another strategic expert Paul Staniland pointed out that Democrats tend to be much more supportive of India than the Republicans.

Jayapal has attracted South Block’s wrath after introducing a bipartisan resolution (co-sponsored by a Republican member) in the House of Representatives earlier this month, sharply criticising the detentions and the communications lockdown in Kashmir. The resolution urges India to swiftly lift all restrictions on communications in J&K and preserve religious freedom for all residents.

As a result, Jaishankar was unable to meet the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot L Engel, senior Republican Michael McCaul and others, which would have included Jayapal.

India says the restrictions are necessary to prevent Pakistan-sponsored proxies from indulging in terrorist acts in Kashmir. “I have an interest in meeting people who are objective and open to discussion, but not the people who have already made up their minds,” Jaishankar had said at the media interaction on being asked if he was concerned by the resolution, currently in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

However, Jayapal told US media that this approach “only furthers the idea that the Indian government isn’t willing to listen to any dissent at all. The seriousness of this moment should’ve been a reason for a conversation, not dictating who’s in the meeting, which seems very petty”. There were reports that Jaishankar’s meeting was cancelled because the House Foreign Affairs Committee kept adding new members to the list and changing the ground rules of the meeting.

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