Facing all-round attack, government on Tuesday disapproved of and condemned the meeting that a journalist had with 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed and said it has sought a report from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad about whether they were aware of this.
“The government of India totally disapproves of this meeting of Ved Pratap Vaidik… The government condemns this meeting with the chief accused of Mumbai terror attack,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told the Rajya Sabha.
She insisted the government has nothing to do with it and “nothing to hide”.
A full report has been sought from the Indian High Commission in Pakistan and it will be shared with the House, she promised.
Her response came as opposition members attacked the government over the meeting, saying its silence is intriguing and questioned how the Indian mission in Islamabad was not aware of it. Members also wanted to know if any action would be taken against Vaidik.
Swaraj said the government was as ignorant as the members in the Opposition about the visit and she came to know about the meeting only through media.
The External Affairs Minister also said that she did not know whether the Indian High Commission was in the know about the meeting that took place in Pakistan.
She also expressed ignorance about certain comments reportedly made by Vaidik on Jammu and Kashmir. Opposition members termed Vaidik’s extended stay in Pakistan as “intriguing”.
Vaidik had gone to Pakistan as part of a delegation for an event organised by a former Foreign Minister in June. While rest of the delegation members had visa for only three days after which they returned, Vaidik’s visa was extended and he stayed back for three weeks, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
To this, the External Affairs Minister said visas had been issued by the Pakistan government as per the request made by the delegation members.
Rajya Sabha saw frequent disruptions as soon as the House met for the day, with opposition Congress seeking suspension of Question Hour and pressing for government’s response over the “serious” matter.
Earlier, Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also said, “This is a diplomatic misadventure of a private individual. The Indian State has nothing to do with it…The person (Vaidik) or his views has nothing to do with either the government or my party.”
His statement led to an uproar with slogan-shouting Congress members storming the Well. The issue led to repeated adjournment of the House.
Responding to Swaraj’s statement, Azad asked as to why the Indian High Commission in Pakistan was unaware of the meeting and did not keep track of the scribe. “If they knew nothing, then it’s a cause of concern,” he said.
Azad said when earlier a “non-mainstream” person had met Saeed, BJP had raised the matter, but it was silent now.
Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said though the journalist wrote a lengthy article in a Hindi daily on his Pakistan visit, he did not mention about the meeting with Saeed.
He also said the silence on the part of the government about the meeting was “intriguing.”