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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

India, US could discuss Kashmir at upcoming high-level meeting

John Sullivan, who will be joined by head of the state department’s south and central Asia bureau Alice Wells, is expected to meet External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

india Updated: Aug 09, 2019 10:16 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
\ Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Donald Trump
\ Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Donald Trump (PTI FILE)
         

The United States on Thursday reiterated it did not get a heads-up on Kashmir developments from India but the two sides could have the first opportunity to discuss the issue at greater length in a first high-level meeting since when deputy secretary of state John Sullivan is in New Delhi next week on a prearranged visit.

Sullivan, who will be joined by head of the state department’s south and central Asia bureau Alice Wells, is expected to meet External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

Morgan Ortagus, the state department spokesperson, said these visits had been scheduled from before when asked if they were occasioned by Kashmir developments, but she did not rule out discussions about them during the upcoming visits, “Do I think that this will come up? I mean, I think obviously this is something that we watch incredibly closely. It’s something that we’ve called for calm and restraint by all parties. We want to (maintain) peace and stability, and we, of course, support direct – the direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern. And I’m sure that will be addressed when all three of them travel.”

Also Watch | In Kashmir, scenes of normalcy, support for move to end Article 370

 

The third person she was referring to is US Special Representative for Afghanistan peace talks Zalmay Khalilzad, who was in New Delhi a few days ago and met the external affairs minister.

Taking “note” of India’s characterization of the change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir — from a state to Union Territory — as an “internal” matter and without questioning the Modi government for it, the United States has nevertheless criticized the clampdown in Kashmir as it has sought to calibrate its response with an eye on the Afghan pease process, and not buck Pakistan’s cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the negotiations.

The United States has denied it had been consulted or informed by India ahead of the changes, as reported by section of the India media, and Morgan weighed in on it personally Thursday telling reporters she was present at the meeting between Jaishankar and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of the recent ASEAN meetings at which the two officials might have discussed Kashmir, but didn’t.

“I was in the meeting,” Ortagus told reporters in response to a question and added in affirmative — “that’s right” — when asked if no heads-up were given then.

The state department spokesperson then went on say in response to another question that there is no change in US policy on Kashmir, quashing Pakistani propaganda fueled by Pakistani Americans and sympathetic partisan reporters seeking to build on President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate in response to visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s public appeal to him in front of dozens of TV cameras and reporters at joint appearance in the White House.

Here is the exchange between Ortagus and the reporter, as reproduced in the official transcript:

QUESTION: Has there been any change in US policy on Kashmir?

MS ORTAGUS: No.

QUESTION: There’s no change on it?

MS ORTAGUS: No. And if there was, I certainly wouldn’t be announcing it here, but no, there’s not. (Laughter.)

…MS ORTAGUS: Because we would let someone more important like the President do that”.

There has been no change in US policy on Kashmir despite Trump’s recent mediation offers, as the administration has said in multiple statements cleaning up after the president. And the president has offered mediation, it needs to be stressed for those inclined to believe in conspiracy theories, only in response to public requests. The first time was in response to Prime Minister Khan and the second was in response to a question from a reporter asking him about India’s rejection of his offer.

Trump had seemed unaware of the Indian response, but not surprised.

First Published: Aug 09, 2019 09:36 IST

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