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After India's criticism, US distances from Ilhan Omar's Pak visit

By Lalit K Jha
April 22, 2022 10:01 IST
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Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's travel to Pakistan this week is not sponsored by the United States government, an official said on Thursday.

IMAGE: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar meets former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during her visit. Photograph: @ShireenMazari1/Twitter

India on Thursday condemned Omar's visit to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, saying her travel to the region violated the country's sovereignty and it reflected her "narrow-minded" politics.

She also 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.

Speaking to ANI, Derek Chollet, counselor to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, "It's an unofficial personal visit and it does not represent any policy change on behalf of the United States government."

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.

Condemning her visit to PoK, External Affairs Ministry 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.

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 took office.

Her meeting with Imran Khan at his residence at Bani Gala has been criticised since the ouster Pakistan premier had accused Washington of conspiracy to dislodge his government.

Omar is the first naturalized citizen of African birth to sit in the US Congress.

She has been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has previously questioned Biden administration officials over what she said was their "failure" to criticize 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, she raised concerns about the United States' history of getting close to undemocratic leaders as a strategy to show strength in numbers against an adversary.

With inputs from ANI

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Lalit K Jha
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