New Delhi, Mar 24:
As Kashmiri separatists met the Pakistani envoy here again on Tuesday, the third time in three days, the opposition slammed junior external affairs minister V.K. Singh for having attended the Pakistan Day event and later expressing his “disgust” on Twitter.
The minister later said his attending the function was part of “diplomatic civility”, and wondered what the brouhaha was about.
Congress leader Manish Tewari said leaders have in the past refused to attend Pakistani events.
“If Mr#duty#Disgust is so disgusted with double standards of his government on Pakistan he should quit? Other ministers in the past have refused to attend Pakistan events!” Tewari tweeted.
Speaking to Times Now news channel, V.K. Singh, a former army chief, made it clear that he was representing the government at the function.
He said the Hurriyat Conference had been attending the event for the past about 20 years.
“For the last 20 years, Hurriyat (has been) part of Pakistan National Day (function). Has it happened for the first time?” he asked.
He said the government nominates a person for such events.
“The government nominated a person to attend. There is full stop after that. The government takes (such a decision) for all national days of all embassies (in India),” he said.
“There is diplomatic civility involved in it. Where is the question of questioning such things?” he said.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor in a column on the NDTV news website wrote: “The damage done by the tweets has to be seen in the context of what the Modi government seems to be doing on the Indo-Pak front.”
“It has stretched out a conciliatory hand, sent the foreign secretary to Islamabad, downplayed the terrorist attacks a few days ago in Jammu and Kashmir, and the prime minister used the occasion of Pakistan’s National Day yesterday (Monday) to declare his new-found faith in peace and dialogue with our most hostile neighbour,” Tharoor wrote.
“If this is all part of a carefully calibrated opening to Islamabad, the last thing the government of India needs is for one of its own servants, an instrument of its policy, to undercut the policy he is supposed to help execute.”
Tharoor wrote that the “tangled” India-Pakistan ties “need to be handled with finesse, subtlety, and yes, sometimes with insincerity. Pakistan is not the right place for a bull who carries his own china shop around with him”.
Congress Rajya Sabha member Mani Shankar Aiyar, who also attended the Pakistan Day event, in a column on NDTV news website wrote that the Narendra Modi government was beginning to slowly reach out to Pakistan, despite the ceasefire violations on the border.
“Not only has the new foreign secretary been to Islamabad, Delhi is now beginning to walk the talk on dialogue.”
“Instead of sending so graceless a representative, Modi should have ensured that we were more decently represented,” he wrote.
V.K. Singh, who attended the Pakistan Day event on Monday evening wearing a green jacket over his churidar-kurta, was there for a brief 10 minutes.
When accosted by reporters why he attended an event at which separatist leaders were honoured guests, the minister said he had been asked to do so.
“The government of India has to send an MoS (minister of state). They sent me and I went there and came back,” he said.
Later, he tweeted his views about “duty” and “disgust”, seen as a protest at being made to attend the event.
Under the hashtag “Duty”, he posted three tweets: “A job or service allocated”, “The force that binds one morally or legally to one’s obligations”, “A task or action that a person is bound to perform for moral or legal reasons”.
Under “Disgust”, the minister, a former army chief, wrote: “To offend the moral sense, principles, or taste of”, and “To sicken or fill with loathing.”
Kashmiri separatist leaders, including Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Syed Ali Geelani and Yasin Malik, were present at the event.
There were reports that the separatists had remained seated when the Indian national anthem was played at the event, but stood upright when the Pakistan national song was played.
Yasin Malik’s statement to the media on Monday also provoked outrage on Twitter.
He said: “We are just here to attend the functions. I am not an Indian. We are disputed people. Our status are yet to be ascertained.”
The leaders of the Hurriyat Conference and other separatist outfits also met Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit at the high commission here on Tuesday. IANS