India boycotts Pakistan National Day event for inviting Hurriyat leaders

PTI

File Photo: External Affairs Ministry (MEA) spokesman Raveesh Kumar addressing media.

File Photo: External Affairs Ministry (MEA) spokesman Raveesh Kumar addressing media.

India has decided to boycott a reception at the Pakistan High Commission here to mark Pakistan’s National Day as several separatists leaders from Jammu and Kashmir have been invited to the event, the External Affairs Ministry said Friday.

It said no Indian representative will attend similar events in Islamabad as well.

Over the years, India’s representation at the annual event has been at the level of a Union minister.

“India has decided not to send any representative to attend the Pakistan National Day celebrations today. This decision was taken after Pakistan High Commission decided to invite representatives of the Hurriyat Conference to the reception,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

Pakistan Day is celebrated to mark the Lahore Resolution on March 23 each year.

At a media briefing, Kumar also said that India is very clear that any attempt by the Pakistani High Commission or Pakistani leadership to engage with the Hurriyat Conference will not be taken lightly.

India has been strongly opposed to Pakistan engaging with separatists leaders of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Our High Commission in Islamabad will also not be attending the reception there,” Kumar said, replying to a question.

Sources said last week India conveyed to Pakistan High Commission that it will not send any representative to the reception if Hurriyat leaders are invited to it.

They said India is boycotting the events for extending an invitation to Hurriyat leaders and not because of any other issue.

Last year, the reception at the Pakistan embassy was attended by Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. Some low-ranking leaders from a number of separatist outfits from Kashmir also attended the reception.

India’s decision to boycott the reception here and events in Islamabad comes in the backdrop of heightened tension between the two nuclear-armed neighbours after the Pulwama terror attack and subsequent air strike by India on a training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26. The JeM had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack.

Pakistan retaliated the next day by unsuccessfully attempting to target Indian military installations.

India has been mounting diplomatic offensive against Pakistan since the Pulwama attack to corner the country internationally on the issue of terrorism.

(PTI)