As External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar ended his visit to the United States after participating in the ‘2+2’ dialogue with top U.S. officials, reports suggest that he cancelled a meeting to discuss the situation in the Kashmir Valley with several Congressional leaders, objecting to the presence of Indian origin Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who recently sponsored a tough resolution on Kashmir.
A report in The Washington Post said Indian officials cancelled the meeting that was to include the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot L. Engel, Republican representative Michael McCaul from Texas and others. But it was the presence of Ms. Jayapal that was singled out by the Indian officials as the reason for the cancellation.
Mr. Jaishankar told news agency ANI, “I have no interest in meeting her.” A bipartisan resolution that Ms. Jayapal sponsored on December 8 was noted for its criticism of the Government of India’s actions in Kashmir and asked New Delhi to lift the communication restrictions there. In response, Chairman Engel declined to hold the meeting in the absence of Ms. Jayapal.
Responding to the cancellation, Ms. Jayapal said in a social media message, “The cancellation of this meeting was deeply disturbing. It only furthers the idea that the Indian government isn’t willing to listen to any dissent at all.”
The comment on her personal Twitter handle drew angry response from BJP supporters. Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation’s Anirban Ganguly said, “Uninformed, motivated, agenda-driven, laced with fake news, meant to push a false narrative and attempt to destroy the standing of a committed democracy and democratic government - isn’t dissent.”
Senior scholar and a supporter of India-U.S. relations Ashley Tellis described the situation as “a missed opportunity”. “...not engaging with Congress, which has traditionally been a bastion of strong support for India, is shortsighted,” he said.
Ms. Jayapal has been a supporter of India-U.S. relations and has in the past championed religious tolerance and pluralism. In 2017, she told The Hindu that India’s strength was its religious tolerance and New Delhi should do everything possible to nurture it.