External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday criticised a resolution introduced in the United States House of Representatives against India’s actions in Kashmir, and said he was “not interested” in meeting the Congresswoman who had introduced it, PTI reported.
Jaishankar, while on a visit to Washington this week, pulled out of a meeting with a group of US lawmakers that would have included the Congresswoman, Pramila Jayapal.
A report in The Washington Post claimed that India “abruptly” withdrew from the meeting as the group did not accept its request to drop Jayapal. However, another report in Indian news agency PTI claimed that the meeting was cancelled as the House Foreign Affairs Committee kept on changing the rules of the meeting and kept adding new members to the list.
Both reports quoted unidentified Congressional aides.
Jaishankar was in Washington this week for the “2+2” dialogue, which involves India’s external affairs and defence ministers and the US’ secretaries of state and defence. The group of lawmakers he was to meet included House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L Engel and the committee’s top Republican member, Michael McCaul.
Indian officials told the committee that Jaishankar would not meet the lawmakers if Jayapal was not dropped, according to The Washington Post. Jaishankar pulled out of the meeting after Engel declined the request, Jayapal claimed.
According to PTI, the committee expanded the list of lawmakers who would meet Jaishankar just a day before the meeting. The revised list included Jayapal and several other lawmakers who were known to be critical of India and its actions in Kashmir.
Jaishankar said the lawmakers were not objective and were biased. Later, after concluding his visit, he told reporters: “I am aware of that [Jayapal’s] resolution. I don’t think it’s a fair understanding of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, or a fair characterisation of what the government of India is doing. And I have no interest in meeting [Jayapal].”
Pramila Jayapal is an Indian-American Democratic Party member of the House of Representatives. She has strongly opposed India’s security and communications clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir since August, when the region’s special constitutional status was revoked. Earlier this month, she introduced a bipartisan resolution in the House, calling for an end to the restrictions in Kashmir and for India to respect international human rights and religious freedom.
Jayapal told The Washington Post that she was asked to wait to push for the resolution until after the meeting with Jaishankar.
“This [the cancellation of the meeting] only furthers the idea that the Indian government isn’t willing to listen to any dissent at all,” she said. “The seriousness of this moment should’ve been a reason for a conversation, not dictating who’s in the meeting, which seems very petty.”
Jayapal added that the recent amendments to India’s Citizenship Act “add a whole level of complexity to India as a secular democracy – one of the great prides of the country”.