New Delhi: Even as Rajya Sabha was deliberating scrapping Article 370 – which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir – the ministry of external affairs did a series of briefings for foreign envoys to convey that the reorganisation of the state was a purely “internal” matter.
In Islamabad, the Pakistan foreign secretary summoned Indian high commissioner Ajay Bisaria and issued a “strong demarche” on the change in status of J&K.
Pakistan also called on India to “halt and reverse” these “unlawful” actions.
During the day and well into the evening, as the ‘elders’ were debating the four bills on J&K tabled by home minster Amit Shah, cars with diplomatic number plates and fluttering flags went up and down Raisina Hill.
First, the MEA only called the ambassadors for the P-5 countries – the US, the UK, France, Russia and China – to meet with senior level officials at South Block.
Thereafter, a decision seem to have been made to expand the circle. Towards the evening, ambassador countries with whom India has strategic relationships, like Australia and Indonesia, were also seen arriving. These were largely one-on-one meetings.
Late evening, most of the ASEAN ambassadors were also called for a briefing by the MEA secretary in charge of that geographical division.
All of them seemed to have been communicated the same line.
According to sources, MEA officials wanted to stress that the matter related to the proposals for Article 370 and the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir is a domestic matter. “It was, inter alia, highlighted that the proposals which are currently under consideration of the parliament of India are internal to India.”
Further, sources added that the ambassadors were told to tell their capitals that the change in status was “aimed at providing good governance, promoting social justice and ensuring economic development in Jammu and Kashmir”.
The last time that the diplomatic community in Delhi was summoned on the same day to South Block was in the aftermath of Indian airstrikes at Balakot in Pakistan in February.
Reacting to criticism, a senior Indian official claimed that briefing the ambassadors was not equivalent to letting the rest of the world have a stake in the Kashmir dispute. “Many of the envoys had approached us and then we thought of expanding it to countries that are important to us. Even Indian ambassadors abroad ask for briefing from their host foreign office on domestic issues – and get it. It doesn’t mean that they are asking to internationalise the matter. This is diplomatic courtesy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan foreign secretary Sohail Mehmood told the Bisaria that India’s “unlawful” actions were in “breach of international law and several UN Security Council resolutions”.
“The foreign secretary also condemned the preceding pre-meditated steps such as complete lock-down of IOK, deployment of additional 180,000 troops, imposition of curfew, house arrest of Kashmiri leaders and suspension of communication services, among others,” said a statement issued by the Pakistan foreign office.
Mehmood also expressed that “Pakistan’s consistent opposition to all Indian attempts to change the demographic structure and final status of IOK was emphasised”.
During the day, Pakistan had issued a public statement in which it voiced the right to “exercise all possible options”. It also said that India’s “unilateral steps” would not change the “disputed” status of Kashmir.