Pakistan National Day: PM Narendra Modi greets, MoS VK Singh tweets #disgust, #dutyhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/mos-v-k-singh-attends-pakistan-national-day-reception/

Pakistan National Day: PM Narendra Modi greets, MoS VK Singh tweets #disgust, #duty

Earlier, Pak envoy Abdul Basit sparked a row by saying India was not against his interactions with separatist leaders.

vk singh, pakistan national day
VK Singh attended the celebrations, where several Kashmiri separatist leaders including Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yaseen Malik were also present.

Barely two hours after attending the Pakistan National Day reception as the Indian government’s representative, Minister of State (External Affairs) Gen V K Singh (retd) posted a series of cryptic tweets on Monday defining “duty” and “disgust”.

While he made no direct references, the tweets indicated his discomfiture at having been deputed to attend an event at the Pakistan High Commission that was also attended by Hurriyat leaders.

The series of five tweets, under the tags ‘duty’ and ‘disgust’, came on a day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed his greetings to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, expressing conviction that all outstanding issues could be resolved through “bilateral” dialogue.

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After his five tweets, Singh posted another tweet late on Monday suggesting that the media was “twisting this issue”.

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Singh posted his first tweet at 10.01 pm: “#DUTY A task or action that a person is bound to perform for moral or legal reasons.” This was followed by two more tweets on similar lines: “#DUTY The force that binds one morally or legally to one’s obligations” and “#DUTY A job or service allocated.”

And then, there were two tweets tagged #DISGUST. At 10.04 pm, he posted: “#DISGUST To sicken or fill with loathing” and “#DISGUST To offend the moral sense, principles, or taste of”.

An hour later, at 11.06 pm, he tweeted: “#‘Disgust’ed to see how certain sections of the media are twisting this issue.”

Earlier, when asked about his presence at the event, Singh told reporters: “The Government of India has to send an MoS. They sent me, and I went there and came back.”

The Pakistan National Day reception started at about 7 pm and Singh spent about 10 minutes at the High Commission lawns —- at around 7.30 pm —- for a photo-op, and stood in attention for the national anthem of both countries before he left. He did not eat or drink at the High Commission, and kept a grim face during his stay.

While his tweets did not specifically mention the event, the fact remains that they followed his attendance at the reception. Till late on Monday night, each of Singh’s tweets had been retweeted more than 200 times and favourited more than 100 times within an hour.

As per standard practice, the government nominates a minister or a minister of state as its representative at the National Day reception of the embassies of all countries. Singh has been a representative at the Chinese and the Saudi Arabian embassy receptions in the recent months. Last year, because of the model code of conduct, Secretary (East) Anil Wadhwa was sent and the year before, it was MoS, External Affairs, Preneet Kaur.

However, it is extremely unusual for a Union Minister to express his views on the merits of attending an event, which is part of his job.

Like every year, the Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit hosted a reception for Indians to celebrate the occasion of National Day —- the presence of Hurriyat leaders at the reception has been a practice for about two decades now.

Among the Hurriyat leaders, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Yasin Malik, Bilal Lone and Abdul Ghani Bhat attended the event.

Among political leaders, Congress’s Mani Shankar Aiyer and Rajeev Shukla were present, while nobody from the BJP attended the reception.

Monday, in fact, started on a positive note, as Modi conveyed his greetings to Sharif on Twitter. “I have written to Pakistan PM Mr Nawaz Sharif, conveying my greetings on the National Day of Pakistan,” he tweeted from his personal handle at 1.04 pm.

“It is my firm conviction that all outstanding issues can be resolved through bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror and violence,” said another tweet from the Prime Minister. His tweets were retweeted about 1,000 times.

Basit, who presided over the celebrations at the High Commission, said he didn’t think India objected to his hosting the Hurriyat leaders. “I don’t think the government of India is objecting. I suggest that the media not make an issue out of a non-issue,” he said.

Responding to Basit’s remark, New Delhi reiterated its stated position that there is “no place for a third party”. “The government of India prefers to speak for itself,” the External Affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said. “There should be no scope for misunderstanding or misrepresenting India’s position on the role of the so-called Hurriyat. Let me reiterate there are only two parties and there is no place for a third party in resolution of India-Pakistan issues,” he said.

After the Foreign Secretary-level talks were cancelled in August last year over Basit’s meeting with Hurriyat leaders, New Delhi and Islamabad had agreed on the “sequencing” of Pakistan envoy’s meeting with these Kashmiri leaders.

According to the broad understanding between New Delhi and Islamabad in the past few months — as first reported in The Indian Express on February 15 — while the Pakistan High Commissioner can meet Hurriyat leaders on the National Day or any other time of the year, India had made it quite clear that there should not be any meeting “before” official talks.

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Thus, the official talks between foreign secretaries or foreign ministers will remain separate from the Pakistan envoy’s meetings with the Hurriyat leaders. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar’s Pakistan visit was scheduled on March 3 — almost three weeks before the Pakistan’s National Day reception.