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Mani Shankar Aiyar calls Pakistanis ‘biggest asset of India’: ‘Two-thirds of Indians ready to come to you'

Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar stoked a controversy by calling the Pakistanis the "biggest asset of India". He said that only one-third of the Indians vote for PM Narendra Modi and the BJP, and the "two-thirds of Indians are ready to come towards you (Pakistanis)".

Ashesh Mallick Edited By: Ashesh Mallick @asheshmallick07 New Delhi Published on: February 12, 2024 19:01 IST
Mani Shankar Aiyar, Congress, Pakistan, PM Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha elections 2024
Image Source : PTI Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar

Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar has stoked another controversy with his latest remarks calling the Pakistanis as the “biggest asset of India” and stating that nearly two-thirds of Indians are “ready to come towards you”, news agency ANI reported citing Dawn. Aiyar, in the past has also heaped praise on Pakistan while also allegedly seeking its “support” in removing Prime Minister Narendra Modi from power and bringing back Congress at the Centre. In yet another episode of his Pakistan praise, Aiyar said that he has never been to a country where he was welcomed with such open arms as he was in Pakistan.

Pakistanis are over-friendly if we are friendly: Mani Shankar Aiyar

“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,” Aiyar was quoted as saying at an event in Lahore, by ANI which cited the Pakistan daily Dawn.

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 former Union Minister shared his affection for Pakistan and its people, saying he had never been to a country where he had been welcomed with such open arms as he was in Pakistan.

Recalling his posting in Karachi, the former diplomat said 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," ANI quoted the Dawn report as saying.

"All I ask the people (of Pakistan) is to remember that (PM) 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)," ANI cited Dawn which quoted Aiyar as saying at the event.

Mani Shankar Aiyar bats for dialogue with Pakistan

He called it PM Modi’s “biggest mistake” to refuse to hold dialogue with Pakistan and stressed his call to open the communication channels between the two countries.

"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.

Mani Shankar Aiyar takes 'Hindutva establishment' jibe at Modi govt

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,” he said.

"But it's a minority opinion because 63 per cent of Indians have never voted for BJP,” ANI cited Dawn quoting Aiyar as saying.

Aiyar's striking divergence from India's official stand

His remarks and the sentiments he articulated marked a striking divergence from India's official position on Pakistan across global forums--that "talks and terror don't go together".

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had earlier said Pakistan's core policy has been to "use cross-border terrorism to bring India to the table," adding that India made that policy irrelevant by "not playing that game now".

"What Pakistan was trying to do, not now but over multiple decades, was really to use cross-border terrorism to bring India to the table. That, in essence, was its core policy. We have made that irrelevant by not playing that game now," Jaishankar had said.

"It's not a case that we won't deal with a neighbour. After all, at the end of the day, a neighbour is a neighbour, but it is that we will not deal on the basis of terms that they set where the practice of terrorism is deemed as legitimate and effective in order to bring you to the table,” he added.

(With ANI inputs)

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