New Delhi (PTI): Congress today claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stopover in Lahore was “pre-arranged” while accusing his government of pursuing a Pakistan policy in “fits and starts and abrupt U-turns” even as BJP ally Shiv Sena and VHP asked if the visit will enable India get hold of Dawood Ibrahim, Hafiz Saeed and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.
Questioning Modi’s “unscheduled” visit, Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma said his engagement with Pakistan is “frivolous, unpredictable, marked by fits and starts and abrupt U-turns”.
He asked what assurances has the Prime Minister got on bringing back or punishing perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai attacks, especially Lakhvi and on dismantling terror syndicates in Pakistan acting against India.
Questioning the intent behind his visit, Congress also rejected claims of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that the Prime Minister’s move was ‘statesman-like’ and claimed that the visit was “pre-arranged” by a businessman.
“The same industrialist who has business partnership with the ruling establishment in Pakistan was there for the last two days. This is out in the open,” he said, asking the Prime Minister to reveal the name of the businessman himself.
“We are very clear that the Prime Minister is there to promote only private business interests and not India’s national interest which should be supreme,” “Diplomacy is serious, it must have gravitas and predictability. It cannot be frivolous, otherwise it will implode on Shri Narendra Modi’s face,” he told reporters here.
Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad wondered whether the visit will lead to effective action against cross-border terrorism as well as terror masterminds like Dawood Ibrahim, Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi.
“Will Dawood Ibrahim be given to India after today’s meeting (between Modi and Sharif)? If this happens, we welcome this visit,” Sena spokesman Sanjay Raut said in Mumbai.
VHP international working president Pravin Togadia said in a statement issued in Allahabad that “we hope that Modi’s tour of Pakistan leads to effective action by the neighbouring country against terrorists operating from their soil.”
“Pakistan is also the land where 1993 Mumbai serial blasts accused and underworld Dawood Ibrahim has been hiding for more than two decades. The neighboring country has so far been in a state of denial in this regard.
“We hope that our dashing and dynamic PM Modiji’s intervention will bring about a radical change”, Togadia said. In Srinagar, Kashmiri separatists welcomed Modi’s visit with moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq terming it “a positive move” and hardline faction leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani saying they have no objection to improved relations between India and Pakistan.
“We do not have any issues with relations improving between India and Pakistan… No right thinking persons shall have any reservation on it. However, the two countries have to address the Kashmir issue as per wishes and aspirations of the people if these endeavours are to succeed,” Geelani told PTI. BJP hit back at Congress over its claim that Modi’s visit was pre-arranged at an industrialist’s initiative, saying it was “unfortunate” that the country has an opposition like it which sees negative in all “positive efforts”.
Welcoming Modi’s visit which has taken the country by “pleasant surprise”, BJP said he has taken a bold step which only a strong leader can do.
“Such an allegation by Congress is absolutely incorrect and in bad taste. This is unfortunate that the country has an opposition like this today. People have hopes from Modi and he has in a short span of time brought about a paradigm shift in India’s relationship with the outside world,” party secretary Shrikant Sharma said.
He recalled that BJP stalwart and the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had also taken a similar exercise with his Lahore bus journey.
The External Affairs Minister said the Prime Minister has acted like a statesman in deciding to visit Pakistan and this is how relations with neighbours should be.
“That’s like a statesman. Padosi se aise hi rishte hone chahiyen (This is how it should be with neighbours),” Swaraj said on twitter to the news of Modi’s visit
Modi today made a surprise announcement of a stop-over in Lahore as he wrapped up his brief Afghanistan visit.
His sudden visit comes within days of both countries deciding to re-engage in “Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue”. The Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan are scheduled to meet next month to discuss modalities about the dialogue.
BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said the two neighbours needed to inject informality in their relations, as is the case in many places of the world like the EU and ASEAN.
“PM Modi’s sudden stop over at Lahore to greet Pakiatan PM Nawaz Sharif is a much needed departure from protocol-driven politics between the two countries. Like leaders of other nations in the world like the EU, ASEAN and even countries in our neighborhood leaders of India and Pakistan too needed to inject informality in their relations.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) wondered as to what was the change that prompted Modi to visit Lahore when BJP opposed talks with Pakistan, and asked why this “yaarana” (friendship).
Senior AAP leader Ashutosh said it was BJP and Modi who were opposing talks with Pakistan under the pretext of terrorism. He questioned whether terrorism has completely stopped as Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif has now become a likable figure to Modi.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed welcomed Modi’s surprise visit, saying it is a step in the right direction.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said New Delhi’s engagement with Pakistan is a good step but called for consistency in the process instead of “grand gestures”.