Quoting media reports on claims of Pakistani journalist Nusrat Mirza that former Vice President Hamid Ansari had invited him to India, and that he had shared the information collected during the visit with Pakistan’s ISI, the BJP on Wednesday asked both Ansari and the Congress, which led the then UPA government, to come clean on this and share the details with the present government.
Denying the allegations, Ansari called BJP’s charges a “litany of falsehood”. He stated, “I never invited him [Mirza] or met him.”
In a strong counter, the Congress said the “insinuations and innuendos” of the BJP spokesperson are “character assassination of the worst form”.
“I am bound by the commitment to national security in such matters and refrain from commenting on them,” Ansari said in a statement. “The Government of India has all the information and is the only authority to tell the truth. It is a matter of record that after my stint in Tehran [as India’s Ambassador to Iran] I was appointed India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. My work there has been acknowledged at home and abroad.”
Congress general secretary party’s communication in-charge, Jairam Ramesh, said, “The levels that the Prime Minister and his party colleagues will stoop to debase public debate and spread their patented brand of lies is staggering. It reflects sickness of mind and lack of any form of integrity whatsoever.”
Mirza purportedly made the claim in a recent interaction with journalist and YouTuber Shakil Chaudhary. He purportedly said he shared information he had collected with the ISI.
Addressing the media at the party headquarters on Wednesday, BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia quoted “television reports and social media” and said Mirza has stated that Ansari invited him to India. “Mirza said (that) during his India visit, he met him and shared information that is sensitive and secret. We should not forget that the post of Vice President is a Constitutional post and there are many issues that cannot be shared, as they are linked to the nation’s security,” Bhatia said.
According to Bhatia, Mirza came to India on five occasions and was given permission to visit seven cities, instead of the usual four visits allowed to a foreign visitor. “This [information] has not been shared once, but five times,” Bhatia said. “He says this information was used against India by the ISI to weaken India. India has been leading the campaign against terrorism, and the Congress government invited a person who was given information used against our country and its people.”
Bhatia said both the Congress, which led the UPA government during the period concerned, and Ansari should tell the nation whether these instances occurred. He said Ansari had invited a person from “a country that is known to support terrorism to speak about counter-terrorism. This is their policy to fight terrorism.”
He asked Ansari to come clean on the allegations and tell the people whether he invited “this person and shared a number of secretive and sensitive matters officially or unofficially”. Bhgatia added, “If you have, please share it with the current dispensation to show that you are committed to this nation”.
In his statement, Ansari said, “Yesterday and today a litany of falsehood has been unleashed on me personally in sections of the media and by the official spokesman of BJP. That as the Vice President of India I had invited Pakistani journalist Nusrat Mirza. That I had met him in a conference in New Delhi on “Terrorism” and that while as Ambassador to Iran, I had betrayed national interest in a matter for which allegations have [been] made by a former official of a government agency.”
Ansari stated, “It is a known fact that invitations to foreign dignitaries by the Vice President of India are on the advice of the Government, generally through the Ministry of External Affairs. I had inaugurated…on December 11, 2010 the ‘International Conference of Jurists on International Terrorism and Human Rights’. As is normal practice, this list of invitees would have been drawn by the organisers. I never invited him or met him.”
Ansari said his work as “Ambassador to Iran was at all times within the knowledge of the Government of the day.”
Taking a swipe at Congress leaders, Bhatia named both party chief Sonia Gandhi and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and said the opposition party has a history that it “stands for the family, not for the nation”. The BJP leader also asked Ansari whether he had taken instructions from the Gandhis to invite Mirza.
Hitting back, Jairam Ramesh said, “Insinuations and innuendos by a spokesperson of BJP against Sonia Gandhi…and Hamid Ansari are to be condemned in the strongest possible language. The facts regarding the International Conference…on December 11, 2010 in New Delhi are already in public domain. The insinuations and innuendos of the spokesperson of BJP are character assassination of the worst form.”