NEW DELHI: The government on Monday distanced itself from the reported meeting of an Indian journalist with Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan, saying it had “not sanctioned” it and asserted there is no change in its stand on the JuD head.
It also said that no track-2 or track-3 diplomacy is in operation, and for the government, “Hafiz is a terrorist”. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh raised in Rajya Sabha (India’s upper house of parliament) the issue of journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik meeting Saeed and asked if the government had sanctioned it, leading to an uproar. The government has nothing to do with “directly, indirectly or even remotely” with any journalist meeting Saeed, Union Minister Arun Jaitley responded, adding, “Government has not sanctioned permission to anyone for meeting him (Saeed).”
He asserted Saeed is a terrorist and involved in terrorism against India. Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said the government has clarified that it has no role in meeting of an individual journalist with Saeed. “For the government, there is no change of stand as far Hafiz is concerned. For India, Hafiz is an accused in the terror attack. He is a terrorist who conspired to attack India,” Javadekar told reporters outside parliament. The minister said there is no track-2 or track-3 diplomacy involved and for the government “Hafiz is a terrorist. Rajya Sabha leader has already clarified it in the House.”
Reports said Vaidik, a freelance journalist, had met the Jamaatud Dawa chief in Lahore on July 2 while touring Pakistan with a group of journalists and politicians invited by a peace research institute. India accuses Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Tayyba, of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in which 166 people were killed. The Congress targeted the Prime Minister’s Office over the meeting of Vaidik with Saeed in Pakistan, alleging its “direct involvement” and asked the government to “come clean” on the issue.
Congress leaders raised in parliament and outside the issue of Vaidik’s meeting with Saeed, saying the journalist was “very close to Sangh Parivar” and rejected the government’s contention that it had nothing to do with the meeting. “This is a very serious issue with regard to national security. The PMO is directly involved in it. Vaidik belonged to the same organisation, Vivekananda International Foundation, whose three members Nripendra Misra, PK Mishra and Ajit Doval are working for the Modi government as principal secretary, additional principal secretary in PMO and as national security adviser (NSA) respectively,” party spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said at the AICC briefing.
He added, “Now the fourth person, who also worked in the foundation, Vaidik, whom we knew more as a columnist rather than a regular journalist, had met the most wanted terrorist in India, who is an accused in Mumbai terror strikes. A serious question arises. Did he go to meet Hafiz Saeed at the instruction of the prime minister? The prime minister and the government must come clean on it.”
Vaidik, considered close to Baba Ramdev, has rejected suggestions by Congress that he might have acted as the government’s envoy, saying he was “nobody’s envoy but my own”. In Rajya Sabha, leader of the House and finance minister Arun Jaitley said for India, Saeed was a terrorist and indeed involved in terrorism against India. “Jaitly has said that the government has nothing to do with it. What he is saying is wrong. PMO is involved in sending him (Vaidik)” to Pakistan,” Ahmed, said alleging that people from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) dominate the foundation.
“This is not an issue involving Vaidik alone. The entire government is involved in it,” he said. Former Union minister and senior Congress spokesman 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.”
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