The J-10 fighter aircrafts that will fly the Islamabad sky Saturday to celebrate Pakistan National Day may not have been the only kind gesture China extended Pakistan to avoid embarrassment. It had also come to its rescue the day before in New Delhi when India boycotted the celebrations.
The decision to send the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Bayi Aerobatic team by China came from a sense of standing by Pakistan at a time when India-initiated attempts were on for its isolation at the international stage.
By early evening on Friday it became clear that there will be a marked low attendance at the Pakistan National Day celebration because of the Indian boycott. Sources say that it was at this juncture that China decided to bring in van loads of its personnel from its embassy across the road in Chanakyapuri in an attempt to shore up the Pakistani guest list.
Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui and several other officials from the Chinese embassy were present at the Pakistani function on Friday. Many more Chinese “guests” arrived in vans from the embassy across the road subsequently to increase the number of people at the National Day celebration.
Some Pakistani officials, however, denied knowledge of any such development and pointed out that number of guests from China for the Pakistani National Day celebrations were high even in the previous years. However, given the strong bond China and Pakistan enjoy, the possibility of Beijing trying to bail out Pakistan to get out from yet another spot cannot be ruled out.
But irrespective of the Chinese effort, the number of guests at the Pakistani function remained significantly low.
Friday’s celebration at the Pakistan National Day was marred by intrusive behavior and harassment of the guests outside the Pakistan High Commission compound by group of policemen in mufti. It was not clear whether it was sparked off by India’s decision to officially boycott the celebrations or prompted by the feeling of “nationalism” witnessed in the country in the wake of February’s murderous attack on the CRPF convoy by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists. But their presence outside the Pakistan High Commission gates made them the main topic of discussions among diplomats and guests who attended Friday’s function.
The unprecedented and over-zealous move by the sleuths did not only target members of the Indian media, subjecting them to intense scrutiny but also stopped most of the invitees. One of them happened to be former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey. Like others he too, was requested to boycott the celebration. But the former diplomat chose to ignore the request and attend the function.
The Pakistan National Day is officially celebrated on March 23. But it was celebrated a day earlier in New Delhi. However, India decided to boycott the celebration because of Pakistan’s decision to invite Kashmiri separatist leaders of the All Party Hurriyat Conference for the function in New Delhi.
While no members of the Hurriyat Conference were noticeable at the Pakistani High Commission function, the usually packed programme that every year overflows with guests was an extremely low-key affair on Friday. Barring few, most ambassadors stayed away from the celebrations, either boycotting it altogether or deciding to send the Deputy Head of Mission at the Pakistan High Commission for the occasion.
But the Indian position notwithstanding, it did not stop PM Narendra Modi from expressing his best wishes to his Pakistani counterpart on this special occasion for Pakistan. Imran Khan tweeted that he received a message from Pm Modi. “I extend my greetings and best wishes to the people of Pakistan on the National Day of Pakistan. It is time that people of the subcontinent work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive and prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.”
On his part the Pakistani PM responded with another tweet saying, “I welcome PM Modi’s message to our people. As we celebrate Pakistan Day I believe it’s time to begin a comprehensive dialogue with India to address and resolve all issues, especially the central issue of Kashmir and forge a new relationship based on peace and prosperity for all our people.”
With both leaders speaking about peace and prosperity for people of the two countries are we likely to see end of violence and a terror-free world in the near future? That continues to be the most pertinent question in India-Pakistan ties.