Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, deployed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deliver the “take-it or leave-it” message to Islamabad after Pakistan’s insistence on involving Hurriyat, addressed even domestic audience with her hard political talk.
Swaraj, who did not camouflage the official stand in nuances that dot diplomatic speech, was forthright in her evening press meet acknowledging that the Centre overcame domestic pressure, perhaps hinting at the BJP and its other right wing affiliates, to continue with its bilateral engagement but would not accept third party engagement ahead of Monday’s NSA-level talks.
Due to renewed terror strike in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and increased ceasefire violations, the government was under stress to call off the NSA-level talks.
She also said the government had consulted other political parties, which was an effort to build political consensus on talks with Pakistan which often generates nationalistic fervour.
Swaraj, who recently argued her way out of a precarious situation after getting dragged into the Lalitgate, also did not give much credence to journalist queries that sought her response on former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had engaged Hurriyat leaders on Kashmir issue.
“Beet gayi so baat gayi (lets not dig into past),” commented Swaraj, who was also a minister in the Vajpayee regime. Swaraj was fielded for tough talk even by the Vajpayee government during the 2001 Agra talks that was called off midway.
The then Union home minister L K Advani had reportedly asked her to play a role that ensured former Pakistan president Pervez Musharaf returned to Islamabad without a pact because he insisted on inclusion of Kashmir issue.
On the day Agra talks began (July 15, 2001), Swaraj who was then information and broadcasting minister, had briefed media on issues discussed between the two sides but did not mention Kashmir that had peeved Pakistan. Though she had later clarified that she did not speak about the Kashmir issue as it was obvious, the reports of that time cite this among reasons that led to premature ending of Agra summit.
Meanwhile, BJP president Amit Shah had a meeting with Modi at 7 Race Course Road. The BJP and the government are on the same page that Pakistan should not engage with separatists prior to NSA level interactions on terrorism.