- S Jaishankar reacted to report that he cancelled meet with US lawmakers
- Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal had criticised government's J&K move
- He said he's interested in "meeting people who are objective"
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, who is in the US, has reacted sharply to a report that he had cancelled a meeting with American lawmakers including Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who has criticised the government's Kashmir moves in a resolution.
"I don't think it (the report) is a fair understanding of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir or a fair characterization of what the government of India is doing. I have no interest in meeting her," Mr Jaishankar was quoted by news agency ANI as saying in Washington on Thursday.
"I have an interest in meeting people who are objective and open to discussion but not the people who already made up their minds."
Ms Jayapal introduced her resolution earlier this month in the House of Representatives after several weeks of efforts. The resolution urged India to lift as swiftly as possible all restrictions on communications in Jammu and Kashmir since the August 5 decision on ending special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370. The government has defended the continuing restrictions saying they are needed to prevent attempts by Pakistan to stir trouble in Kashmir.
The Washington Post, in an exclusive report, said the Foreign Minister "abruptly cancelled" a meeting with senior members of Congress this week after US lawmakers refused demands to exclude Ms Jayapal. The report quoted congressional aides familiar with the matter.
"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," Ms Jayapal tweeted.
The cancellation of this meeting was deeply disturbing.— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) December 19, 2019
It only furthers the idea that the Indian government isn't willing to listen to any dissent at all. https://t.co/EMeqIr05VJ
Reacting to her tweet, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor questioned the Foreign Minister's "refusal to engage with a critic" and called it a BJP political failing.
This is totally unworthy of a great democracy like India. I can't believe @DrSJaishankar with all his diplomatic experience would refuse to engage with a critic; whether you agree with him or not, he is able to debate anybody!This intolerance of dissent is a BJP political failing https://t.co/jkACJH9kJZ— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) December 20, 2019
The Post said the decision demonstrated India's sensitivity over Jammu and Kashmir, which has been under massive security restrictions since August and where mobile phone and Internet access is still not restored.
Mr Jaishankar, during his visit to Washington, was to meet the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the committee's top Republican, Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas, and others, including Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
According to The Washington Post, Indian officials told the committee that Mr Jaishankar would not meet with the lawmakers if the group included Ms Jayapal, who is sponsoring a resolution urging India to lift communications restrictions, restore Internet access and preserve religious freedom. Mr Engel refused, and the Indians pulled out, Ms Jayapal told the Post.
"This only furthers the idea that the Indian government isn't willing to listen to any dissent at all," she told the newspaper. "The seriousness of this moment should've been a reason for a conversation, not dictating who's in the meeting, which seems very petty."
The Press Trust of India has quoted Congressional sources familiar with the deliberations to say that the meeting was cancelled as the House Foreign Affairs Committee kept on changing the ground rules and adding new members to the list. Ms Jayapal and some other India critics were added a day before the meeting, said PTI.