A distorted narrative is being peddled over Foreign Minister S Jaishankar’s move to cancel a meeting with senior US lawmakers in Washington, D.C., earlier this week, government officials have said. Mr Jaishankar had cancelled a meeting with the powerful US House Foreign Affairs Committee because he did not want to meet Democrat Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a known critic of India’s stand on Kashmir. Government officials said that since Ms Jayapal is not a member of the committee Mr Jaishankar was under no obligation to meet her. “No Foreign Minister of any independent country should be pressurised into meeting politicians with their own agendas,” officials said.
“Rep. Jayapal is not a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and her positions on India are well known. A meeting was not sought with her. Therefore, it was not India which put conditions for the meeting with the HFAC leadership, but the HFAC that insisted on unilaterally bringing a non-member,” officials added.
Officials also said the Foreign Minister’s decision that centred on “HFAC inviting others without even seeking consent” and noted that other HFAC members met Mr Jaishankar and discussed issues. Officials also said the Senate meeting took place as planned and resulted in a “very open conversation”.
Mr Jaishankar was quoted as making similar remarks to news agency ANI in Washington on Thursday.
Earlier this month Ms Jayapal introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives urging India to lift all restrictions on communications in Jammu and Kashmir. She now has 29 co-sponsors for the resolution, including 2 Republicans. Ten co-sponsors came on board after the meeting was cancelled.
There have been strong reactions to the Foreign Minister’s decision to cancel the meeting, including from Democrat Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
“Shutting out U.S. lawmakers who are standing up for human rights is what we expect from authoritarian regimes-not the government of India. @RepJayapal is right. She must not be excluded for being outspoken about the unacceptable crackdown on Kashmiris and Muslims,” Mr Sanders wrote. “Efforts to silence @PramilaJayapal are deeply troubling. The U.S. and India have an important partnership-but our partnership can only succeed if it is rooted in honest dialogue and shared respect for religious pluralism, democracy, and human rights,” she said.
Former Democrat Presidential candidate Kamala Harris was also among those to criticise the cancellation.
“It’s wrong for any foreign government to tell Congress what members are allowed in meetings on Capitol Hill. I stand with @RepJayapal, and I’m glad her colleagues in the House did too,” Ms Harris tweeted. The internet ban in Kashmir is the “longest ever imposed in a democracy” according to a study by Access Now, an international advocacy group that tracks Internet suspensions, that was reported by the Washington Post.