Why was he given unscheduled access to media?
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has sought a report from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on its “inept” media strategy during the recent visit of Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who raised certain controversial issues that the Indian side failed to counter effectively.
Unhappy with the negative publicity the Indian government got nationally as well as internationally from the much-hyped visit, the PMO has asked for clarifications regarding three instances where Mr. Malik was given unscheduled access to the media that allowed him to raise controversial statements such as equating the Babri mosque issue with the Mumbai terror attacks, giving a clean chit to the 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed and putting the onus on Indian investigating agencies and the issue of torture of Kargil martyr Saurabh Kalia by the Pakistan army.
When Mr. Malik arrived in Delhi last Friday, the media was supposed to have a “photo opportunity” and take pictures at the airport. Instead, he was allowed to interact with TV and print journalists, to whom he spoke about Saeed and Captain Kalia.
A function organised to formalise a new visa regime was open only to the visual media so that it could take pictures and video clippings, but Mr. Malik and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde answered some questions. It was here that Mr. Malik again put the entire blame on India for not giving credible evidence against Saeed.
While Mr. Malik took maximum mileage of the event, Mr. Shinde just charged Pakistan with not fulfilling its earlier promises.
The PMO wants to know why the media was allowed to ask questions when a scheduled joint press briefing of the two Ministers was cancelled.
Government sources say the PMO and some senior Ministers, who were against Mr. Malik’s visit, are unhappy with the MHA for not coming out with prompt reactions to his contentious statements.
They are critical of the MHA for not briefing the Indian media informally, as the Ministry of External Affairs usually does during such important occasions, on what was happening during the talks or countering Mr. Malik’s statements. They want to know the logic of its not interacting with the Indian media when Mr. Malik and Pakistan High Commission officials were passing on all information of what was going on during the visit.