US-New Delhi May Discuss Kashmir On Deputy Secretary Of State John Sullivan Visit To New Delhi Next Week

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New Delhi: The United States reiterated that it did not get a heads-up on developments in Kashmir from India but the two sides could have the first opportunity to discuss the issue in a first high-level meeting since deputy secretary of state John Sullivan will be in New Delhi next week on a pre-arranged visit.

Sullivan, who will be joined by head of the state department’s south and central Asia bureau Alice Wells, is expected to meet External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

Morgan Ortagus, the state department spokesperson, said these visits had been scheduled from before when asked if they were occasioned by Kashmir developments, but she did not rule out discussions about them during the upcoming visits, “Do I think that this will come up? I mean, I think obviously this is something that we watch incredibly closely. It’s something that we’ve called for calm and restraint by all parties. We want to (maintain) peace and stability, and we, of course, support the direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern. And I’m sure that will be addressed when all three of them travel.”

The third person she was referring to is US Special Representative for Afghanistan peace talks Zalmay Khalilzad, who was in New Delhi a few days ago and met the external affairs minister.

Taking “note” of India’s characterization of the change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir — from a state to Union Territory — as an “internal” matter and without questioning the Modi government for it, the United States has nevertheless criticized the clampdown in Kashmir as it has sought to calibrate its response with an eye on the Afghan peace process, and not buck Pakistan’s cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the negotiations.

The United States has denied it had been consulted or informed by India ahead of the changes, as reported by a section of the Indian media and Morgan weighed in on it personally on Thursday telling reporters she was present at the meeting between S Jaishankar and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of the recent ASEAN meetings at which the two officials might have discussed Kashmir, but didn’t.

“I was in the meeting,” Ortagus told reporters in response to a question and added in affirmative — “that’s right” — when asked if no heads-up were given then.

The state department spokesperson then went on say in response to another question that there is no change in the US policy on Kashmir.

There has been no change in the US policy on Kashmir despite Trump’s recent mediation offers, as the administration has said in multiple statements cleaning up after the president. And the president has offered mediation only in response to public requests. The first time was in response to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and the second was in response to a question from a reporter asking him about India’s rejection of his offer.

Trump had seemed unaware of the Indian response, to the reporter’s question but not surprised or disappointed.

 

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