Monday, Nov 28, 2022

'Have Interest In Meeting Objective People': S Jaishankar Cancels Meeting With US Lawmakers

The Congressional resolution on Kashmir introduced by Pramila Jayapal is not a fair characterisation of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the Foreign Minister said.

Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar, right, and Defense Minister Shri Rajnath Singh, speak during a news conference after a bilateral meeting the U.S. and India. AP Photo

The Congressional resolution on Kashmir introduced by Pramila Jayapal is not a fair characterisation of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said. He also asserted that he has no interest in meeting the Indian-American Congresswoman and lawmakers who are neither objective nor open to discussion and have already made up their mind.

The Chennai-born first-ever Indian-American woman elected to the House of Representatives, ignored the voices of the diaspora from across the country as she went ahead with her pre-announced plans to introduce the resolution on Kashmir in the House early this month.

The pending resolution, introduced after several weeks of efforts by the 54-year-old Jayapal, urges India to lift as swiftly as possible all restrictions on communications in Jammu and Kashmir which were imposed following the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5. It also urges to preserve religious freedom for all the residents of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

India has defended imposition of restrictions in Kashmir on the grounds that they were put to prevent Pakistan from creating more mischief through proxies and terrorists following the abrogation of Article 370 which ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

"I am aware of that (Congressional) 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)," Jaishankar told a group of Indian reporters here on Thursday as he concluded his trip to Washington DC, which was primarily to attend the India-US 2+2 dialogue.

The second 2+2 ministerial dialogue was hosted by Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper for their Indian counterparts Jaishankar and Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh.

Do you treat the resolution currently in the (House Foreign Affairs) committee seriously: the resolution that criticises the situation in India? the minister was asked.

"I have an interest in meeting people who are objective and open to discussion but not the people who already made up their minds," Jaishankar said in response.

According to a report in The Washington Post, Jaishankar "abruptly cancelled a meeting with senior members of Congress this week after US lawmakers refused demands to exclude" Jayapal from the meeting.

Jaishankar was to meet chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Eliot L Engel; committee's top Republican Michael McCaul and others, including Congresswoman Jayapal, the report said.

"This 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," Jayapal was quoted as saying by the leading American daily.

Jayapal said she had planned to advance her resolution on Kashmir this week but was urged to wait until after meeting with Jaishankar. Now she plans to renew her push for the resolution in January, the report said.

"My constituents care about the human rights situation, thousands of people detained without charges, and a communication crackdown that makes daily life more difficult," she was quoted as saying in the report.

However, Congressional sources familiar with the deliberations said that the meeting was cancelled as House Foreign Affairs Committee kept on changing the ground rules of the meeting and kept on adding new members to the list.

A day before the meeting they added Jayapal and several other lawmakers who were known India-bashers and sponsors of the Congressional resolutions on Kashmir, they said.

The Indian Embassy did not respond to questions. However, earlier in the day, Jaishankar explained, in response to a different question, reasons for not meeting lawmakers he said were not objective and are biased.

Jaishankar said that the Indian government had no problem with the Democrats and it has a very strong relationship with them.

"No, I don't think so. Honestly, I don't think so. My own sense is that support for the relationship is extremely strong in a very, very wide cross-section members of Congress and political leaders outside the Congress," he said.

"So, I wouldn't take a few voices and necessarily reach a sweeping conclusion, which your question seems to suggest," the minister said when asked if India has a problem with the Democrats.

"I'm not personalising this. I don't want to get into names. All I'm saying is we have always operated in this country because we are always engaged with everybody (who) was reasonable and open minded," Jaishankar said.

In addition to his 2+2 ministerial, bilateral and the White House meetings, Jaishankar also met leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Affairs Committee including its Chairman Senator James E Risch and Ranking Member Senator Bob Menendez.

On the eve of the ministerial, he also met some of the key members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee including Congressmen Ami Bera and Brad Sherman from the Democratic party and Ted Yoho and Francis Rooney from the Republican Party.