Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley addresses Gujarat BJP Working Committee Meeting in Ahmedabad. (Source: PTI)

Jaitley Rules Out Apology From Prime Minister For Targeting Manmohan Singh

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said Manmohan Singh’s demand for an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “beyond comprehension”.

The former Prime Minister had asked Modi to apologise to the nation for alleging that Singh met with Pakistan to discuss the Gujarat assembly elections.

In a press conference later in the day Jaitley said, “Congress should explain to the people of India the reason for this meeting. Why was it needed?” India maintains that it will not engage Pakistan in talks till they resolve their terrorism issue, Jaitley said, adding that everyone, including the opposition party, is expected to respect that stance.

Terming Congress’ meeting with the Pakistan officials a “complete misadventure”, the finance minister called on the party to “come out with detailed facts what transpired in that meeting and what was the necessity of having it in present circumstances”.

Addressing a rally in Gujarat yesterday, Modi said that Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar hosted a dinner at his residence on Dec. 6 involving a Pakistani delegation including the country’s high commissioner. He also alleged that the meeting, also attended by former Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari and Singh, conspired to interfere in the Gujarat assembly elections.

In a rebuttal, Singh issued a media statement where he said he was “pained and anguished by falsehood and canards being spread” by Modi, as the Gujarat elections unfold. Singh accused Modi of spreading “falsehoods in a lost cause”. Modi was setting a "dangerous precendent" with his "insatiable desire to tarnish" every Constitutional office, including that of a former Prime Minister and Army Chief, he said.

Jaitley argued that the current Bharatiya Janata Party government has a better track record of fighting terror than that of any other government. He termed the meeting as a “misdaventure” for the opposition party.

Yesterday they were in denial about it and today instead of accepting it as a misadventure, they try to blame those raising the issue.
Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister

The finance minister also questioned Mani Shankar Aiyar’s role in the talks saying he has had “an inconsistent position” on Pakistan. “They maintained a parallel line of dialogue, underplayed Pakistan's role in instigating terrorism in India & continued to engage with them,” Jaitley said.

‘The Word Gujarat Was Not Used’

The conversations at the aforesaid meeting were centered around India-Pakistan relations, ways to improve ties and the opportunities and hurdles that lie ahead, Ajai Shukla, columnist at Business Standard newspaper, who was present at the meeting, told BloombergQuint in an interview.

They spoke on how trade relations could be strengthened even amid the logjam of the current diplomatic dialogue.
Ajai Shukla, Columnist, Business Standard

According to Shukla, the meeting was attended by former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, who was in the country for his book launch, and a group of predominantly former Indian diplomats who had dealt with Pakistan earlier.

“I would like to clarify that the word Gujarat was not used and certainly no discussion about the Gujarat elections,” Shukla said. He also said that the argument that the meeting took place without anyone knowing is “completely spurious” since when he’d arrived at the meeting, the scene was “awash with the Delhi police”.

I would only say that if the former foreign minister of Pakistan is in India and roaming around in the capital city and the government doesn’t know what he’s here for then they really should be pulling their intelligence agencies to task.
Ajai Shukla, Columnist, Business Standard