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US congresswoman’s LoC visit draws India’s ire

Ilhan Omar says Kashmir issue not being talked about to the extent it needs to in Congress

US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar made a rare visit to Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Thursday and said the Kashmir issue should get more attention from the United States, prompting an angry response 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 the de facto border dividing the disputed territory between Pakistan and India. Omar, a Somali American who belongs to President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party, is the first naturalized citizen of African birth to sit in the US Congress.

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Earlier this month she questioned what she called the reluctance of the US government to criticize Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on human rights. Days later, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was monitoring what he described as a rise in human rights abuses in India by some officials, in a rare direct rebuke by Washington of New Delhi’s rights record.

India has long faced allegations of rights abuses in its portion of the territory, charges New Delhi denies. New Delhi tightly controls access to Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) for foreign observers, including the UN. “On the question of Kashmir, we held a hearing in the foreign affairs committee (of Congress) to look at the reports of human rights violations,” said Omar, who arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday and has met Pakistan’s leaders.

New Delhi sharply criticized Omar’s visit. “Let me just say that if such a politician wishes to practice her narrow-minded politics at home, that’s her business,” said Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for India’s foreign ministry. “But violating our territorial integrity and sovereignty… makes this ours and we think the visit is condemnable.”

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Ilhan Omar said she would brief the United States Congress and the Biden administration about the human rights violations being committed by the Narendra Modi government in IIOJK. The issue of Human Rights abuses in Kashmir was less talked about in the United States and she would try to take up the issue with both the Congress and the Biden administration, she said in a brief chat with the media after meeting Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) President Barrister Sultan Mehmood.

“We are engaged through a Foreign Office Committee about the question of Kashmir and this question is not as much talked as it should be,” Ilhan said. She said she was visiting the Azad Kashmir to collect the facts and the tour was benefiting her to understand the issue. She would obviously inform her party, the Congress and the Biden administration, besides raising the issue on other forums, she added. She said she was optimistic that more conversation would be held in the Congress on the question of Kashmir and anti-Muslim acts of the Indian government on her return (to the US) and she would be able to get issued condemnations by the US administration and raising the issue with India.

Earlier, AJK President Barrister Sultan Mehmood briefed the Congresswoman about the human rights abuses being committed by the Indian government in IIOJK and expressed optimism that the Biden administration would take cognizance of the post-August 5, 2019 acts.

Mahmood said India’s traditional intransigence was the stumbling block in the way of resolving the long-drawn Kashmir conflict that had now assumed dangerous proportions.



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