Jaishankar declined to meet US committee that included Jayapal, Democrats criticized India for ‘silencing’ its critic

indica News Bureau-

Democratic congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who had criticized India for handling the Kashmir issue, is again in the headlines. S Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs of India, was to meet members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which also included Jayapal, but he told the chairman of the committee, Eliot Engel, that he will not meet the panel unless Jayapal is dropped off the panel. Engel refused to entertain the request as a result of which, the scheduled meet was canceled at the last moment.

Now S Jaishankar is facing criticism from several US senators for his decision to not meet Democratic Congresswoman owing to the latter’s unflattering view of the Indian government’s handling of the Kashmir issue. Jayapal, the first Indian American woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, has introduced a resolution in the House on Kashmir.

From presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to Indian origin Congresswoman Kamala Harris who recently dropped out of the race for White House, Democrats stood beside Jayapal and criticized India for ‘silencing’ its critic.

“It’s wrong for any foreign government to tell Congress what members are allowed in meetings on Capitol Hill.” The first US Senator of Indian origin, Harris said she stands with Jayapal. “I’m glad her colleagues in the House did too,”

Harris, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race early this month, however, backed her colleague.

She said responding to a news report in The Washington Post which said that Jaishankar refused to attend a meeting of House Foreign Affairs Committee because Jayapal was also scheduled to be present in that meeting along with other lawmakers. Bernie Sanders also took to the microblogging site to condemn the move.

He said that shutting out U.S. lawmakers who are standing up for human rights is what we expect from authoritarian regimes—not the government of India.

Earlier in the day, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and a leading Democratic presidential candidate came out in support of Jayapal. Warren said the “efforts to silence” Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal “are deeply troubling”. She retweeted a report by The Washington Post which said that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar refused to attend a meeting of House Foreign Affairs Committee members that included Jayapal.

Congressman Jim McGovern also came out in her support. “No foreign government should dictate who is or isn’t allowed into meetings on Capitol Hill,” he said. “I stand with Jayapal and applaud Congressman Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and others for doing the same,” he said. “The partnership between the US and India must be grounded in open, honest conversation between friends,” McGovern added.

The pending resolution on Kashmir introduced by Jayapal in the House is not a fair characterization of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told a group of Indian reporters on Thursday. “I am aware of that (Congressional) resolution. I don’t think it’s a fair understanding of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir or fair characterization of what the government of India is doing,” Jaishankar said when asked if he asked for a meeting with Jayapal. “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 added.

Jayapal thanked Senators Harris and Warren for their support. “We’re rapidly entering a world where it’s not only acceptable but encouraged for foreign governments to shun the president’s domestic political opponents. This isn’t a situation in which a coherent foreign policy can be developed,” she said in another tweet on Friday.