Nisar’s ‘behaviour’ may have jeopardised SAARC summit, officials say

  • Diplomatic sources and political leaders say tiff between Rajnath Singh and Nisar may provide an excuse to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to skip upcoming SAARC summit scheduled for November in Islamabad


Diplomatic and political circles are wondering if the “strong body language and arrogant behavior” of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan as well as his “mysterious absence” from the luncheon meeting of the SAARC interior minister’s summit may have jeopardised the advantages of the federal government’s recently-launched diplomatic offensive to seek support against Indian atrocities on innocent and unarmed people of occupied Kashmir.

No bilateral meeting could take place between Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar and his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh on the sidelines of the ministerial conference which ended Thursday on an unpleasant note.

Background interviews and interactions with serving and former diplomats and some of the ruling party leaders have revealed that the diplomatic tiff between Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Chaudhry Nisar may provide an excuse to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to skip the upcoming SAARC summit scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November this year.

Interior Minister Nisar had also passed up the opportunity to shake hands with Rajnath Singh when he was receiving all the interior ministers before the start of the meeting.

TV footages showed the two ministers hardly touching each other’s hands when Nisar received guests at the gate of Serena Hotel in Islamabad. Singh also avoided being photographed with his Pakistani counterpart – a routine gesture in regional intergovernmental meetings.

A diplomatic source requesting not to be named told Pakistan Today that the “unpleasant episode” between the two ministers at the SAARC moot might provide the Modi government an opportunity to escape the upcoming summit.

“Yes, there’s a possibility, but we are ready for it. Bangladesh had also downgraded their representation at the summit to the high commissioner level, due to a strong statement by the interior minister against the hanging of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders,” he said.

The source however deplored the absence of Pakistan’s delegation leader from the luncheon meeting held for the participants of the SAARC interior minister’s moot, saying it was against diplomatic norms.

The absence of Nisar from the luncheon also provided the Indian minister an excuse to skip the lunch as well as the summit’s second session and return to New Delhi the same day, avoiding any meeting on the sidelines.

Another diplomat however backed Nisar’s ‎demeanour, saying the tirade by the minister was a “deliberate” effort aimed at public posturing. “It was not a rush of blood or a knee jerk reaction. Rather, the minister followed a planned move to unsettle the Indian minister’s overtures,” the envoy said, contending that the Indian External Affairs Ministry’s statement issued before Rajnath’s ‎arrival had already scuttled the moot.

“The announcement by India that no bilateral meeting would take place on the sidelines of the moot had jeopardised the possibility of a diplomatic breakthrough,” he said.

“‎Rajnath’s visit to Islamabad was an attempt to hoodwink the world,” the source said, adding, “Indians wanted to shift world’s attention from the situation in held Kashmir, but Nisar’s move foiled it and Pakistan kept media’s focus on Indian state terrorism.”

A PML-N leader however believes that Nisar had given vent to “public anger” over Indian Army’s atrocities against the people of occupied Kashmir. “The minister had to respond to the controversial statement by Rajnath Singh. And he responded to him in a way which India could understand,” added the ruling party’s leader.

In his address at the SAARC interior ministers’ conference, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh had made a direct jibe aimed at the Pakistani government for its strong condemnation of the killing of Kashmiri separatist leader Burhan Wani by Indian forces. “There are no good terrorists or bad terrorists,” Singh had said in his address, referring to earlier criticism the Indian state had levelled against Pakistan. “There should be no glorification or eulogising of terrorists as martyrs.”

Singh had called for “strongest action not only against terrorists or organisations, but also against individuals, organisations and nations”.

In his terse response, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar had lambasted the “use of excessive force” to suppress protests in occupied Kashmir, without naming the Indian government.

“Using torture against innocent children and violence against civilians qualifies as terrorism,” the minister had said, adding that there was a need to end an “extremist mindset” and try to solve the regional issues through dialogue instead.

Nisar had said that like the attacks in Pathankot, Kabul, Mumbai and Dhaka, Pakistan too had lost many innocent lives due to terrorism. “The use of blame game has not benefited anyone in the past six decades, nor would it in the future,” he had said.

“Perhaps (interior minister) Chaudhry Nisar was trying to attract an audience far away from the meeting. (But) the bad taste created during the summit has damaged the country as well as the prime minister,” observed another senior PML-N leader, who was of the view that Nisar’s speech was not in line with the policy statement of Prime ‎Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“While the prime minister’s (policy) statement was all about normalisation, the interior minister went ahead and made a statement that was poles apart,” he added. He was of the view that diplomacy should have been the way forward in order to give peace a chance.

“We have fought many wars, but the Kashmir issue couldn’t be resolved. We are fed up with wars now. With China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in place, we need to learn how diplomacy can help lead us towards regional peace and tranquility,” the senior leaguer said.

He also observed that politicians must observe restraint in matters of relations with the neighbouring states and “the ministers should not try to please the army leadership”. “The speech made by the interior minister was an effort to get attention of a few quarters. It was nothing, but to play to the galleries and to win public attention,” concluded the leaguer.

Another PML-N insider confided to Pakistan Today that Nisar and Interior Secretary Arif Khan are hardly on speaking terms, while the management of the event had been given to Interior Ministry Additional Secretary Dr Amir, National Police Bureau chief Iqbal Mehmood and National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) chief Ihsan Ghani – all three of whom had been appointed as focal persons by the interior minister but they failed to handle the event appropriately.