Congress veteran Mani Shankar Aiyar, a regular at Iftar dinners hosted by the Pakistani High Commissioner, has not been invited for the June 25th bash. Aiyar, who no longer enjoys a Rajya Sabha berth, probably thought that it was not important to his relationship with the Pakistanis with whom he has had a longstanding warm relationship.
The Lahore born former diplomat and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s confidante has made a name for himself for being a strong proponent of strong ties between India and Pakistan. He is the one who first said that India and Pakistan should have uninterruptible talks, something that is trashed by the hawks of Lutyen’s Delhi. Aiyar has visited Pakistan often and been part of several track 2 initiatives. But he drew flak recently when on a talk show in Pakistan he seemed to appeal to the civil society of Pakistan to throw out the BJP from office if it wanted good ties with India.
Within a few weeks of his comment, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Lahore to meet his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif, something that the former’s predecessor Dr. Manmohan Singh could not do despite being a strong proponent of India-Pakistan peace talks.
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Aiyar is a permanent fixture at all India Pakistan social gatherings in New Delhi. The Pakistani High Commissioners are known to pick and choose their guests with great care for their Iftar dinners. And Aiyar has always been a regular, as also Kashmiri separatists.
In his interview with ANI, Aiyar appeared a little downcast of not being invited but he focused on the invitation extended to the Hurriyat by the Pakistani High Commission. He said that the BJP government should shun the attitude of distancing themselves from the Hurriyat.
The Congress leader said the need of the hour is to initiate talks with the Hurriyat leadership for stabilising peace in the valley.
“For the last 15-16 years after former prime minister Vajpayee ji’s directions, the Pakistanis have been talking to the Hurriyat leadership,” Aiyar said.
“This in turn has neither benefitted them nor has damaged India, but making it as a hitch by saying that we won’t talk to Pakistan until they stop talking to Hurriyat is benefitting none,” he added.
The Congress leader further said Hurriyat is not a stake holder for Pakistan, but for India.
“If you want to run democracy then a dialogue is needed with them who oppose you. If you don’t talk to Congress in Delhi, if you don’t talk to Hurriyat in Kashmir then how can you solve the problems,” he said.
Separatist leaders from Jammu and Kashmir, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, have been invited by the Pakistan High Commission for the annual Iftar party.