Kashmir issue to be resolved by India and Pak, not 3rd party: Eric Garcetti
US ambassador to India Eric Garcetti was responding to questions on US ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome’s multi-day visit to Gilgit-Baltistan
NEW DELHI: Days after the US envoy to Pakistan made a low-profile visit to Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), the US ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, said on Tuesday that the Kashmir issue can only be resolved by New Delhi and Islamabad.
Donald Blome, the US ambassador to Pakistan, made a multi-day visit to Gilgit-Baltistan that concluded on Sunday. He toured different parts of the strategic region and met several officials, including a minister and the deputy speaker of the local assembly.
In October last year, India formally protested to the US after Blome visited PoK and repeatedly referred to the region as “Azad Jammu and Kashmir”.
When Garcetti was asked by reporters about Blome’s visit to Gilgit-Baltistan, he replied: “Look, it’s not my place to react to the United States ambassador in Pakistan but I know he’s been before, and we’ve had obviously part of our delegation in Jammu and Kashmir during the G20 as well.”
Garcetti added, “We’ll stay engaged but this is an issue, we very religiously note, that has to be something that is resolved between India and Pakistan, not by any third party, including the US.”
There was no immediate reaction from Indian officials to Blome’s visit to Gilgit-Baltistan.
Earlier this month, Blome became the first senior US diplomat to visit the strategic port of Gwadar in southwestern Pakistan since 2021. Blome met local officials and the Pakistan Navy’s regional commander. Gwadar port is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which also has several projects in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Blome’s back-to-back visits to Gwadar and Gilgit-Baltistan prompted a local opposition leader, Kazim Mesum, to allege in the regional assembly that the envoy’s “mysterious activities” were part of the US’s “containment policy” for CPEC. “The ambassador visited areas [through] which the CPEC route will pass,” Mesum was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper.
However, a spokesman for the US embassy in Islamabad said the purpose of the envoy’s visit was to explore opportunities for strengthening Gilgit-Baltistan’s climate resilience. Noting that the region is particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, the spokesman said Blome’s trips are closely coordinated with the Pakistan government.
Garcetti was also asked about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegation of a “potential link” between Indian government agents and the June 18 killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar though he declined to comment on specifics.
Trudeau triggered a diplomatic storm with his accusation, which India has dismissed as “absurd”. The Indian side also said the allegation was aimed at diverting attention from Canada’s failure to act against extremists and terrorists operating from its soil.
“It’s not my place to speak on another country. As a matter of business, not just this, we don’t talk about intelligence matters or criminal justice matters,” Garcetti said in response to questions about Trudeau’s accusation and reports of the US sharing intelligence with Canada on Nijjar’s killing.
Responding to another question on the US accepting India’s invitation for President Joe Biden to be the chief guest at next year’s Republic Day celebrations on January 26, Garcetti said: “We can’t speak to that yet. The invitation’s been made but his [Biden’s] schedule isn’t made that far in advance.”