US lawmakers seek info on CAA: Jaishankar

US lawmakers seek info on CAA: Jaishankar

He also said that he talked about Kashmir briefly with Pompeo

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. (AFP photo)

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said that the situation in Kashmir was briefly discussed during his bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and American lawmakers in separate meetings inquired about the amended Citizenship Act.

Jaishankar held bilateral talks with Pompeo at the State Department on Wednesday, following which they were joined by the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper for the second 2+2 dialogue.

In an interaction with a group of Indian journalists on Thursday, Jaishankar said the situation in Kashmir was discussed with Pompeo.

"Secretary Pompeo and I had a brief discussion on that (Kashmir). I shared with him that the direction of events was positive. Obviously, things will happen at their time," he said when asked if the Kashmir situation was discussed during his meetings here.

Separately, a senior US state department official told a group of reporters that America has spoken publicly about its concerns over the prolonged detention of political leaders in Kashmir and it, of course, welcome a return to economic and political normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir.

The US also welcomes the release of those who were detained and the lifting of all restrictions on communication and active engagement with stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir, the official said.

Jaishankar said the American lawmakers with whom he met at the US Capitol and otherwise also wanted his perspective on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

"I gave them a more accurate picture than they have been getting from what they read," he said.

According to the CAA, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, following religious persecution there will get Indian citizenship.

On Wednesday, Jaishankar met the leadership of Senate Foreign Relations Affairs Committee, including its Chairman Senator James E Risch and Ranking Member Senator Bob Menendez. A day earlier, he met some of the key members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, including Congressmen Ami Bera and Brad Sherman from the Democratic party and Ted Yoho and Francis Rooney from the Republican party.

In an interaction with a group of reporters later on Thursday, a senior State Department official said the US has regular conversations with the Indian authorities on a varied range of issues, including those related to human rights and religious freedom.

"We recognise and, frankly, appreciate that India is a vibrant democracy, as are we. And the issues you speak are obviously being actively debated and discussed in India at this time. You made reference to the Citizenship Amendment Act," the official said in response to a question.

"Obviously, we are seeing the active political debate, the discussions in Parliament, the protests by people who are espousing their views on that law," the official said.

The official said the US is also fully aware that there is a judicial process that is underway and it respects India's democratic institutions and practices and will continue to observe it on an ongoing basis.

"And the other point is that we also have to talk to India about the fact that as democracies, issues around minority rights, religious freedom, human rights are important pillars of democratic societies, and obviously encourage India and other democracies to adhere to those principles," the official said.

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