Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s travel to Pakistan this week is not sponsored by the US administration, an official said yesterday after India condemned her visit to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), saying her travel to the region violated the country’s sovereignty and it reflected her “narrow-minded” politics.
Omar met Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, his predecessor Imran Khan and several other leaders of the country.
“As I understand it, Representative Omar is not visiting Pakistan on US government-sponsored travel,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference.
The Democratic Congresswoman is on a four-day visit to Pakistan that began on 20 April.
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 assumed office. Even the US administration did not approve of her meeting with Imran Khan at his house at Bani Gala, as the ousted Pakistani prime minister had accused Washington of conspiracy to dislodge his government.
When asked what the US made of the meeting, Chollet said, “(The) Congresswoman’s visit was a personal visit. It was not something that the State Department helped to organise; so I don’t have much to comment on it. Because it was a visit made in her personal capacity.”
Condemning her visit to PoK, Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told reporters in New Delhi, “We have noted that US Representative Ilhan Omar has visited a part of the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir that is currently illegally occupied by Pakistan.”
“If such a politician wishes to practice her narrow-minded politics at home, that may be her business. But violating our territorial integrity and sovereignty in its pursuit makes it ours. This visit is condemnable,” the spokesperson said yesterday.
Derek Chollet, the counsellor to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said, “It’s an unofficial personal visit,” adding that it did not represent any policy change on behalf of the US administration.
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.
Omar is the first naturalised citizen of African birth to sit in the US Congress. She has been a vocal critic of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She had previously questioned Biden administration officials over what she said was their “failure” to criticise 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. the Muslim lawmaker 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.