While tensions have been high between India and Pakistan since the Pulwama attack, ties between the two countries over 24 hours have seen a few developments.
On Friday morning, the Ministry of External Affairs announced that India had decided not to send any representative for the Pakistan National Day celebrations at the Pakistan High Commission. Though Pakistan celebrates the day on Saturday, the celebrations in New Delhi were being organised on Friday evening and the MEA said that any attempt made by the Pakistani leadership to engage with the Hurriyat will not be taken lightly.
The move by the Indian government to boycott the event came as a surprise to many as Pakistan has, in the past, invited several Hurriyat leaders to the event but never has the Indian side decided to boycott the event. Last year too, Hurriyat leaders were invited but most of them were under house arrest. From the Indian side, minister of state for agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was the chief guest. In 2015, it was (retd) Gen VK Singh, in 2016 it was union minister Prakash Javadekar and in 2017 former Union minister MJ Akbar was the chief guest.
Later in the day, around 6 pm, the government held a Cabinet Committee on Security and banned Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, led by Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik. The move comes after the government began its crackdown in the Valley wherein over 120 separatists were arrested, including Malik and Jamaat-e-Islami Abdul Hamid Fayaz.
Earlier this month, the government had also banned Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir citing that the outfit was in touch with militant groups. At the Pakistan High Commission on Friday evening, Delhi Police briefly detained Kashmiri human rights activist Mohammed Ahsan Untoo as he was about to enter the High Commission.
Interestingly, while the government’s official stand on the boycott had been made clear earlier in the day, Indian officials, in the evening, stood outside the Pakistan High Commission reminding people of the boycott.
At the event, Pakistan High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood in his speech lauded efforts made by Pakistan Prime Minister and mentioned the return of IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan. Emphasising on the need for dialogue, he said coercive measures have not worked in the past and will not work in the future.
Almost an hour after the event officially got over at the Pakistan High Commission, around 10 pm, Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sent him a congratulatory note on the occasion of Pakistan’s National Day.
“Received msg from PM Modi: "I extend my greetings & best wishes to the people of Pakistan on the National Day of Pakistan. It is time that ppl of Sub-continent work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive & prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence (SIC),” PM Khan wrote on Twitter.
While there is no official word from the government on what the government meant by sending the note, considering there was an official boycott, sources told CNN-News18 that the note was customary.