By Reena Bhardwaj
Saturday April 23, 2022
US lawmaker Ilhan Omar’s
meeting with recently ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and her
“unofficial, personal” visit to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) did not
represent the United States government in any way, an official said on
India had on Thursday condemned Omar’s visit to PoK as
violative of India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and that it
reflected her “narrow-minded” politics.
The Democratic Congresswoman is on a four-day visit to
Pakistan that began on April 20. On Wednesday, she met Imran Khan as well as
visited a part of PoK.
Speaking to ANI, Derek Chollet, counselor to US Secretary of
State Antony Blinken said “It’s an unofficial personal visit and it does not
represent any policy change on behalf of the United States government.”
Omar, a Somali American who belongs to President Joe Biden’s
Democratic Party, had after her visit to PoK said Kashmir should get more
attention from the United States, which elicited stern condemnation from India.
“I don’t believe that it (Kashmir) is being talked about to
the extent it needs to in Congress but also with the administration,” Omar told
reporters after visiting PoK.
Condemning her visit to PoK, External Affairs Ministry
Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi reporters in New Delhi at a media briefing, “Let me
just say that if such a politician wishes to practice her narrow-minded
politics at home, that’s her business.”
“But violating our territorial integrity and sovereignty…
makes this ours and we think the visit is condemnable,” Bagchi said.
The Islamabad visit by Omar, who represents Minnesota in the
US House of Representatives, is the first by an American legislator since the
new Pakistan government took office. Her meeting with Imran Khan at his
residence at Bani Gala has been criticised since the ouster Pakistan premier
had accused Washington of conspiracy to dislodge his government.
When asked what the US made of the Omar-Khan meeting, in
particular, Chollet said, “Congresswoman’s visit was a personal visit. It was
not something that the State Department helped to organize so I don’t have much
to comment on it. Because it was a visit made in her personal capacity.”
Omar is the first naturalized citizen of African birth to
sit in the US Congress. She has been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra
Modi and has previously questioned Biden administration officials over what she
said was their “failure” to criticize the Indian government on the issue of
human rights and its actions against its Muslim minorities in India.
In a recent hearing in which Omar questioned
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, testifying before the House Foreign
Affairs Committee. Omar raised concerns about the United States’s history of
getting close to undemocratic leaders as a strategy to show strength in numbers
against an adversary.