Indian authorities on Friday stayed away from the Pakistan National Day celebrations, after it was reported that Kashmiri separatists were to attend the event. However, the ceremony at the High Commission of Pakistan went ahead even as Prime Minister Imran Khan declared that he had received India’s greetings.
The boycott decision was conveyed by the spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a briefing where he stated that the decision was prompted by the possible presence of Hurriyat leaders in the event. “We are very clear that Any attempt by the Pakistani High Commission or the Pakistani leadership to engage with the Hurriyat representatives will not be taken lightly,” the spokesperson said. The diplomatic norms require the presence of the host country in such events.
Hours the after Friday’s tense event, Mr Khan announced on social media that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had greeted Pakistan on the occasion of the National Day with a formal message.
In his remarks in the event, Pakistan High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood referred to the ongoing tension between two sides and said the goal of his country is to seek relationship based on sovereign equality.
“Our two countries passed through a very difficult time recently. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to release Wing Commander Abhinandan [Varthaman], return of the two High Commissioners to their respective missions and bilateral meetings for the operationalisation of the Kartarpur corridor are steps in the right direction. There is, however, the need to assure concerned citizens in two countries to consolidate the process of de-escalation and to stabilise the ties against further shocks,” said Mr. Mahmood, pitching for engagement.
“As we step back from the brink, we must make sure that we act with wisdom to find the way forward for our countries and our peoples. Diplomacy and dialogue remain indispensable,” he said addressing the gathering at the mission. Responding to the speech, a leading Western diplomat based here said that the envoy delivered a “sober” message.
“His message of de-escalation is laudable as this is something we all want,” said the diplomat requesting anonymity.
It’s noteworthy that the current Indian government had sent official representatives at the National Day celebration of Pakistan from 2015 till last year. Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh was sent in 2015 and he was followed by Prakash Javadekar, M.J. Akbar and G.S. Shekhawat. Officials, however, said India had warned Pakistan about avoiding engagement with the Hurriyat earlier, maintaining that the decision to boycott was not sudden.
Friday’s event also witnessed unusual security measure which subjected even the media to repeated checks and frisking.