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Mani Shankar Aiyar calls Pakistanis ‘biggest asset of India’; sparks row

Mani Shankar Aiyar calls Pakistanis ‘biggest asset of India’; sparks row

Veteran Congress leader and former Union Minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, on Sunday triggered a fresh controversy after praising Pakistani people and terming them as the 'biggest asset of India', Dawn reported.

Aiyar was speaking at the session titled 'Hijr Ki Rakh, Visaal Kay Phool, Indo-Pak affairs', on the second day of the Faiz Festival at Alhamra in Lahore.

"The Pakistanis, from my experience, have been the people who perhaps overreact to the other side. If we are friendly, they are over-friendly, and if we are hostile, they get overly hostile”, he said during the event, reports the Pakistan daily.

The former Union Minister said he had never been to a country where he had been welcomed with such open arms as he was in Pakistan. He also recalled his posting in Karachi as consul general, saying that everyone looked after him and his wife.

"He has written about a number of incidents in his book, Memoirs of a Maverick, which shows Pakistan as a completely different country to what the Indians imagine. He said that goodwill was needed but instead of goodwill, there had been something opposite during the last 10 years since the formation of the first Narendra Modi government," Dawn reported.

All I ask the people (of Pakistan) is to remember that Modi has never received more than one-third of the votes but our system is such that if has one-third of the votes, he has two-thirds in the seats. So two-thirds of Indians are ready to come towards you (Pakistanis)," Dawn quoted Aiyar as saying at the event.

Referring to his friend, former envoy Satindar Kumar Lambah, the Congress leader said he had written a book about how he served for better bilateral ties between the bitter neighbours under six different prime ministers during his career as a diplomat.

The Congress leader also reiterated his call to open communication channels between the two countries, saying the current regime under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it 'biggest mistake' by refusing to hold dialogue with Pakistan.

"There were five Indian high commissioners who served in the Congress government and the BJP government in Islamabad and all five of them unanimously agreed that whatever are our differences, we must engage with Pakistan and the biggest mistake that we made in the last 10 years was the refusing dialogue. We have the courage to conduct surgical strikes against you but we don't have the courage to sit across the table and talk," Aiyar said at the event.

He added that he considered it 'silly' to expect that the 'Hindutva establishment' in India would want to talk to Pakistan.

"Under Hindutva, they are trying to imitate Pakistan, which became an Islamic republic. The Gandhi-Nehru answer to the Islamic republic was that they would not become a republic based on religion but a republic based on all religions. But their philosophy that lasted for 65 years was overthrown in 2014 and for the next five years we are going to have the same mindset in Delhi,” Aiyar said.

“But it's a minority opinion because 63 per cent of Indians have never voted for BJP," Dawn quoted him as saying at the event.

He said the civil society in both countries "should continue dialogue until the governments awaken, but for that neither Pakistan nor India were any help due to visa issues. He suggested that businessmen, students and academics should continue meeting outside India and Pakistan, bypassing the governments".

His remarks and sentiments sharply deviated from India's official position on Pakistan across global forums, which asserts that "talks and terror don't go together".

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TAGS:India newsMani Shankar AiyarPakistan newsFaiz Festival
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