NEW DELHI: The 70th Independence Day is set to go down in history for two reasons: PM Narendra Modi’s open acknowledgment of Baloch separatists’ ‘thank you’ message to him for raising Pakistan’s human rights violations in the region; and CJI T S Thakur’s critical remarks on the PM’s silence on the pending judicial appointments in his I-Day speech. Both provided the Opposition with talking points. But what stood out was the double-take Congress did on the Balochistan issue, within a span of a few hours.
Modi set the cat among the pigeons when he tried to turn the tables on Pakistan for meddling in Kashmir, by raking up its human rights record in Balochistan, Gilgit and PoK. “I want to tell all that I got tremendous response from the people of Balochistan, Gilgit and PoK. The way they complimented me, I’m grateful to them,” the PM said, drawing a rather critical response from ex-external affairs minister Salman Khurshid. Khurshid, who received brickbats from the BJP for his diplomatic handling of Pakistan, took to cautioning the Modi government that it would give Islamabad an “additional handle” and that’s the reason why “we don’t speak about atrocities in neighbouring countries”. However, a top-level call from the government side to the Congress leadership had the party distancing itself from Khurshid’s position.
Randeep Singh Surjewala, the party’s communication chief, was made to give an unscheduled briefing to contradict Khurshid’s view as “purely personal”. In a complete about-turn, Surjewala said: “We at the Congress feel, Pakistan’s continued and appalling violation of human rights in Balochistan is a matter of grave concern to us and India should be raising the issue not just bilaterally but in all possible multi-lateral fora.”
Meanwhile, non-Congress, opposition leaders were a bit cautious about backing the government’s aggressive posture vis-a-vis Pakistan.