India blames US Congressional panel for cancelled meeting with Jaishankar

Jayapal, who was born in Chennai, has been extremely and publicly critical of the restrictions in Kashmir since the August 5 abrogation of Article 370 and rights of religious minorities in India generally.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was scheduled to meet the Congressional leaders on Wednesday afternoon after the completion of the 2+2 meeting that he and defence minister Rajnath Singh had with their American counterparts, Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper.(AP PHOTO.)
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was scheduled to meet the Congressional leaders on Wednesday afternoon after the completion of the 2+2 meeting that he and defence minister Rajnath Singh had with their American counterparts, Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper.(AP PHOTO.)
Updated on Dec 22, 2019 08:39 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj

The Indian external affairs ministry has blamed a US congressional committee for the cancellation of a meeting its leadership was scheduled to have had with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on the sidelines of his visit here earlier this week for the second 2+2 ministerial dialogue.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) had added Indian American lawmaker Pramila Jayapal to the list of lawmakers who would attend the meeting “without seeking consent” and that the committee had changed the conditions of the meeting by “unilaterally bringing a non-member”, a source said, and added, “No Foreign Minister of any independent country should be pressurised into meeting such politicians with their own agendas.”

Jayapal, who was born in Chennai, has been extremely and publicly critical of the restrictions in Kashmir since the August 5 abrogation of Article 370 and rights of religious minorities in India generally. She spoke forcefully about these issues at a recent congressional hearing and at another called by a congressionally-mandated body and has introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling upon India to undo the restrictions.

The external affairs minister had sought meetings with leaderships of the foreign affairs committee of the House of Representatives and the Senate during his visit to discuss issues that India has wanted to raise on Capitol Hill and also address those that have agitated American lawmakers such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the Kashmir development.

Jaishankar was scheduled to meet the Congressional leaders on Wednesday afternoon after the completion of the 2+2 meeting that he and defence minister Rajnath Singh had with their American counterparts, Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper. The meeting with the leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) took place as scheduled and the minister met Chairman Jim Risch, a Republican, and Ranking Member Robert Menendez, a Democrat, and a “very open conversation” took place, the source said, which, in the language deployed by diplomats, meant all sensitive and tough issues were discussed. Jaishankar told reporters later the CAA was among the issues discussed.

But the meeting with the leadership of the HFAC did not take place. The minister had met with the leadership of a subcommittee of the HFAC the night before over dinner at the residence of Indian ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla. Ami Bera, the Indian American lawmaker, who has taken over the chairmanship of the subcommittee in recent days, was conveyed the changed circumstances of the HFAC meeting.

“Rep Jayapal is not a member of the HFAC, leave alone part of the HFAC leadership,” the source said, adding, “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 in a non member.”

The cancellation of the HFAC meeting, which was first reported by the Washington Post, has drawn criticism from other Democratic lawmakers — such as Senators Elizabeth Warren, who is running for the party ticket to take on President Donald Trump in 2020, and Kamala Harris, who is partly-Indian American and who was also running for the party nomination till some days ago.

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