NEW DELHI: India will not attend Pakistan’s National Day celebrations at the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi due to the High Commission’s decision to invite separatist Hurriyat leaders from Kashmir. Indian missions worldwide, including in Islamabad, will also boycott the event. The Modi government has repeatedly voiced its strong opposition to Pakistan’s engagement with Hurriyat leaders.
However, this is the first time it is boycotting the event because of the invitation to Hurriyat leaders. Senior Union ministers — Minister of state for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat in 2018, MoS for External Affairs MJ Akbar in 2017, MoS for External Affairs VK Singh — had attended earlier events despite the presence of Hurriyat leaders.
Confirming the boycott on Friday at a regular briefing, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “This decision was taken after the Pakistan High Commission decided to invite the Hurriyat representatives to the reception” in Delhi. “We are very clear that any attempt by the Pakistani government or its leadership to engage with the Hurriyat representatives will not be taken lightly,” he said. “Our high commissioner in Pakistan will also not be attending the event there.”
Reacting to the development, coercion will not work, said Sohail Mahmood, High Commissioner of Pakistan to India, said at the Pakistan Day reception in New Delhi on Friday. Pakistan celebrates its National or Republic Day on March 23 every year to mark two events. One is the Lahore Resolution of 1940 and the adoption of the first constitution of Pakistan.