Ilhan Omar, US lawmaker who represents Minnesota, visited
Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (PoK) recently triggering a strong reaction from the
Indian government which accused her of violating the territorial integrity of
the Indian nation-state. The US State Department has, however, called her visit
a personal one with no involvement of the US government. Omar is on a four-day
visit to Pakistan. She met recently-ousted Pakistan PM Imran Khan on Wednesday.

Speaking to the media after visiting PoK, Omar said, “I
don’t believe that it (Kashmir) is being talked about to the extent it needs to
in Congress but also with the administration.” She added that Kashmir should
get more attention from the United States.

Responding sharply to the US Democrat’s visit, Indian
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told the media: “We have
noted that US Representative Ilhan Omar has visited a part of the Union
Territory of Jammu and Kashmir that is currently illegally occupied by
Pakistan. If such a politician wishes to practice such narrow-minded politics
at home, that’s her business, but violating our territorial integrity and
sovereignty in its pursuit makes it ours.”

Also Read | India condemns US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s visit to PoK

Omar’s meeting with Imran Khan has also attracted the
attention of political observers since Khan, before being ousted, had maintained
that he was being removed from office as part of a conspiracy hatched in Washington.
Ilhan Omar, the first naturalised citizen of African birth to sit in the US
Congress, was the first US lawmaker to visit Pakistan since Shehbaaz Sharif,
brother of former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, took over from Khan.

Derek Chollet, counsellor to US Secretary of State
Antony Blinken, has called Omar’s visit “an unofficial, personal” one, adding
that it does not represent any policy change on behalf of the US government.

“Congresswoman’s visit was a personal visit. It was
not something that the State department helped organise so I don’t have much to
comment on it. Because it was a visit made in her personal capacity.

What are Omar’s views on India?

India’s strong reaction to Omar’s visit to PoK is not
without context. Omar has been a stringent critic of the Narendra Modi
government in India and has called out the Biden administration for their
failure to criticise the Indian government on the issue of human rights and its
actions against Muslim minorities in India.

“Why has the Biden Administration been so reluctant to
criticise Modi government on human rights? What does Modi need to do to India’s
Muslim population before we will stop considering them a partner in peace.
These are the questions the Administration needs to answer.”

Also Read | US monitoring rise in human rights abuses in India: Antony Blinken

She has also accused the US government of getting close
to “undemocratic leaders” to show strength in numbers. “I do hope we make a
practice of standing up to not just our adversaries, but to our allies as well,”
she had said at a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs committee.  

Why is PoK a touchy subject

Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir is one of the most
contentious questions in south Asia. The western part of the Kashmir Valley has
been under Pakistan occupation since 1947, according to India’s official view.
Pakistan, on the other hand, administers the region as a “nominally
self-governing entity” with its own unicameral legislature, prime minister and

The visit of a US lawmaker to PoK is a sensitive
subject because the Indian government views the visit as an act of legitimising
the Pakistani occupation.