India boycotts Pakistan Day as Imran Khan tweets Narendra Modi’s wishes

New Delhi: It was a trifle embarrassing for the BJP government. Hours after India boycotted a reception at the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi to mark Pakistan’s National Day over an invitation extended to separatists, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said he had received a message from PM Narendra Modi in which he has extended his best wishes.

Khan tweeted this message from PM Modi: “I extend my greetings and best wishes to the people of Pakistan on  its National Day. It is time that people of sub-continent work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive & prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.’’

Interestingly, the External Affairs Ministry was clear about its intent from the word go and had directed that no Indian representative will attend similar events in Islamabad as well. An unsaid embargo was in place in the national capital and nine out of ten Indian guests were stopped by a group of men from proceeding to the Pakistan High Commission in Chanakyapuri.

 Seasoned journalists covering foreign affairs for almost three decades described such action as “unprecedented and unheard of.” As cars lined up and passengers prepared to alight near the gate of the High Commission, a group of men stopped the cars and reminded the passengers of the Indian government’s boycott of the Pakistan National Day reception.

While some Indian journalists and peace activists were advised to go back, others were told that there was “a security risk”. Only four hours before the reception, the Ministry of External Affairs had confirmed India’s decision not to send any representative to the Pakistan National Day.

“I understand this decision was taken after the Pakistan High Commission decided to invite the Hurriyat representatives to the reception. You are aware of our reaction to this in the past. Any attempt by the Pakistan High Commission or the Pakistan leadership to engage with the Hurriyat will not be taken lightly,” MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at the weekly briefing.

This correspondent too was stopped along with two other senior women journalists by men who on being challenged introduced themselves as Delhi Police personnel. They wanted to see the invitation cards and claimed that they were acting on orders to dissuade Indian guests from attending the reception.

Sensing that the journalists were in no mood to follow such unheard of diktats, they let us go. Some journalists reported that pictures of their Press Information Bureau identity cards were taken. Indian journalists condemned such action as “petty” and said that it was aimed at ruining the party being hosted by the Pakistanis.

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