Saeed-Vaidik meeting ‘jolts’ Indian politics

Union minister says govt has nothing to do with meeting ‘directly, indirectly or even remotely’

NEW DELHI – India’s former ruling Congress party on Monday tried to corner Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government in the parliament on the meeting of an Indian journalist with Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan, the Press Trust of India news service reported.

The party said the meeting could not have taken place without the knowledge of authorities and claimed the journalist was very close to Sangh parivar. In and ouside of the parliament, Congress leaders raised the issue of journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik’s meeting the JuD chief and asked if the government had sanctioned it.

The Congress lawmakers sought a detailed statement from the government on the ‘purpose and motive’ behind the Saeed-Ved meeting and even demanded the arrest of the journalist. “We are going to make an issue out of it because it is not the case of an ordinary journalist. He (journalist) was very close to RSS. He has been going to Pakistan and Afghanistan and all the time he is close to the Sangh parivar,” Congress leader Saifuddin Soz said outside Parliament.

In Rajya Sabha, Union Minister Arun Jaitley said that the government has nothing to do with ‘directly, indirectly or even remotely’ with any journalist meeting Saeed, adding the government has not sanctioned permission to anyone for meeting him (Saeed). But the opposition party kept up its attack saying it was no ‘ordinary’ issue and the journalist could not have met Saeed without the knowledge of Indian authorities.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said that India needs to be taken into confidence about this issue. “We have sought from the government that a reply is needed… Why had Vaidik gone? Is he an envoy or is some back channel diplomacy taking place? This country should know. The nation needs to know, and the nation must be taken into confidence,” Tharoor said.

Another Congress leader Anand Sharma said that the government needs to answer whether it was in the loop. "Such meetings cannot take place without the knowledge of the officials,” he said. Therefore, a legitimate question arises, was the government of India in the loop? Has our foreign ministry received a report?"

Sharma, a former union minister, said that Vaidik carries an India passport and asked whether Indian citizens were allowed to spend time with ‘most wanted terrorists.’ He said that he did not believe that the government was not aware of the meeting.

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