US lawmaker Ilhan Omar’s meeting with recently deposed Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and her “unofficial, personal” visit to Pakistani-occupied Kashmir or PoK in no way represented the United States government, an official said.
India on Thursday condemned Ms Omar’s visit to Pak-occupied Kashmir as a violation of India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and that it reflected its “close-minded” politics.
The Democratic congressman is on a four-day visit to Pakistan that began on April 20. On Wednesday, she met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and visited part of PoK.
Derek Chollet, adviser to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, told ANI: “It is an unofficial personal visit and it does not represent a policy change on behalf of the United States government.”
Ms Omar, a Somali-American who belongs to President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party, had said after her visit to PoK that “Kashmir should receive more attention from the United States”, leading to strong condemnation of India.
“I don’t believe it (Kashmir) is being talked about to the extent necessary in Congress, as well as with the government,” Ms Omar told reporters after visiting PoK.
During a media briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi condemned reporters in New Delhi to her visit to PoK: “Let me say that if such a politician wants to practice her narrow-minded politics, that is her business. But violating our territorial integrity and sovereignty… makes this ours, and we think the visit is reprehensible,” Bagchi said.
The visit to Islamabad by Omar, who represents Minnesota in the US House of Representatives, is the first visit by a US lawmaker since the new Pakistani government took office. Her meeting with Imran Khan at his residence in Bani Gala has been criticized since the deposed Pakistani Prime Minister accused Washington of plotting to oust his government.
When asked what the US thought in particular of the meeting, Mr. Chollet said: “The congresswoman’s visit was a personal visit. It wasn’t something the State Department helped organize, so I don’t have much on it. because it was visited in her personal capacity.”
Ms. Omar is the first naturalized citizen of African descent to serve in the United States Congress. She is an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has previously questioned Biden officials about what she said was their “failure” to criticize the Indian government over the issue of human rights and its actions against its Muslim minorities in India.
At a recent hearing in which Ms. Omar questioned Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, she testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Ms. Omar expressed concern about the United States’ history of getting close to “undemocratic leaders” as a strategy for demonstrating strength in numbers against an adversary.
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