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US envoy ignores separatist leaders during Kashmir visit

March 18, 2011 17:04 IST

In a virtual snub to separatists in Jammu and Kashmir, United States Ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer on Friday said he met only Chief Minister Omar Abdullah during his two-day visit to the state as he was the elected representative of the people.

"The purpose of the visit is that he (chief minister) is the elected leader. The chief minister is the person who represents the people here in Jammu and Kashmir," he told reporters when asked about why he didn't meet separatists.

Roemer said he had a productive and engaging meeting with the chief minister but as he was visiting the state for only two days, he didn't have time to meet too many people.

"I cannot meet everybody as I am here for only two days," he said. Political observers see the decision of the US ambassador to not interact with the separatists as a major snub to separatist outfits in the valley.

Roemer said he wanted to meet the people of the state and learn more about the people of Jammu and Kashmir as he has been doing in the rest of India.

"I wanted to meet the people as I have been doing all over India, the students who are the future leaders at a school like this," he said while visiting the Srinagar branch of the Delhi Public School at Athwajan in the outskirts of the city.

Roemer took out time to interact with the students in the playfield and even tried his hands at basketball. The US ambassador said that during his visit to the Dal Lake on Thursday, he was able to interact with the people in the area and see some of the challenges they face on environmental issues.

"Knowing that India and the US are working closely on environment and education issues, these are two issues that President (Barack) Obama and Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh have outlined as part of our strategic cooperation. There are ways to, hopefully in the future, anticipate what we might be doing in education and environment and all other different areas," he said.

Roemer brushed aside a question on action being taken by the US on the issue of Major (retired) Avatar Singh, an accused in the murder case of a human rights activist in Kashmir nearly 20 years ago, and said he will not react to individual cases.

"The US stands firmly and strongly on human rights issues. We are working universally to promote human rights issues," he said.

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