A meeting at Pakistan’s High Commission between Prime Minister’s Adviser on foreign affairs and national security Sartaj Aziz and leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) created a veritable firestorm in India on Sunday.
At the meeting, attended by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik, Shabbir Shah, Syed Ali Geelani and head of the Dukhtaran-e-Millat Asiya Andrabi, matters relating to Pakistan-India bilateral relationship, the Kashmir policy and recent tensions along the Line of Control came up for discussion.
Prior to the meeting, the leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, Rajnath Singh, told reporters that the Indian government had committed a blunder by allowing this meeting and that it was a breach of diplomatic norms. Indian TV news channels also showed Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah questioning the central government’s decision to allow the meeting to go ahead.
Several Indian news channels, including some of the most prominent ones ran the news of the meeting as their lead story in their hourly bulletins. The popular Times Now channel, owned by the group that also owns the Times of India, also ran a banner on the top of the screen while reporting the meeting which said: “Sharif needles India yet again”, despite the fact that the Pakistan prime minister was not even in India.
The news anchor of the same channel also repeatedly said that “Sharif’s duplicity had been exposed” without really explaining what had led him (the anchor) to come to such a conclusion.
The meeting and its run-up was also widely discussed on social media, especially Twitter. Anurag Thakur, a BJP member of the Lok Sabha from Haryana, tweeted that he strongly opposed the meeting. Some Indians said on Twitter that how would Pakistan feel if an Indian official met members of the Baloch Republican Army in Islamabad.
Sartaj Aziz is in New Delhi to attend the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting and foreign ministers of over 30 states are expected to participate in the conference which will run November 11-12. He is also expected to meet Indian Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid on the sidelines.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th,2013.