New Delhi: Pakistan’s national day event was yet another day of verbal spat between the two South Asian rivals – Pakistani envoy praising ‘freedom struggle’ in Kashmir, while India responded that his remarks were against “diplomatic niceties”.
Speaking at the Pakistan National Day function on March 23, high commissioner Abdul Basit said that his country was “keen to settle all the issues with India, including Jammu and Kashmir dispute, through dialogue”.
He added that the Kashmir issue “must be resolved as per aspirations of Kashmiris”.
Further, he extended support for the ‘freedom struggle’ of Kashmiri people, asserting that it would succeed “one day”.
Basit, who will be leaving New Delhi soon, stated that Pakistan’s interest in dialogue with India was not weakness, but its strength as “our positions on bilateral issues are rooted in principles and international law”.
The outgoing Pakistan envoy’s remarks raised hackles in the South Block, with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson raising objections on his statement on Kashmiris.
“We have seen media reports about Pakistan high commissioner’s remarks today regarding the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. They are not in keeping with diplomatic niceties and are tantamount to interference in our internal affairs,” said MEA spokesperson Gopal Baglay.
He added that Pakistan was “well-advised to effectively address the challenge of terrorism emanating from that country, which has adversely affected peace and stability in the entire neighbourhood as well as Pakistan’s relations with other countries”.
Despite the sharp words from the MEA, the Indian government sent minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar to be the chief guest at the national day reception at the Pakistan high commission in the evening. He stood next to the high commissioner and his wife as the anthems of the two countries were played.
Akbar did not make any public remarks, Basit, however, made a pointed jibe. “Pakistan may not be the richest country in South Asia, but it is certainly the happiest,” he said. He was referring to the World Happiness Report released by the United Nations, according to which India ranked the lowest among its neighbours at 122.