Why US lawmaker Ilhan Omar’s Pakistan occupied Kashmir visit agitates India
- Ilhan Omar, a US Democrat, recently visited PoK
- PoK is one of the most contentious questions in South Asian geopolitics
- She said the US needs to speak more on Kashmir
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.”
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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.”
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 president.
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.