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ISLAMABAD, Mar 28 (APP): Even before country’s high commissioner, Indian business tycoon Sajjan Jindal knew that time Prime Minister Nawaz Sahrif’s decision to attend Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in 2014, Pakistan’s ex-envoy to India Abdul Basit revealed.

“It was Mr Jindal who informed me through an SMS that prime minister would be coming on this date, he would have this programme, he would also visit my residence and so and so forth,” Basit said in an interview with senior Indian journalist Karan Thapar.

The interview’s subject was Abdul Basit’s upcoming book Hostility to be released in India next month.

In his book, Basit, who served as Pakistan’s high commissioner during first three years of Modi government from 2014 and 2017 – wrote that “Sharif was overly inclined to pander to India unilaterally and unconditionally.”

Karan Thapar, the news presenter and interviewer, currently working for The Wire,  whom Basit had emailed his full book, called the book as “explosive” that would “create earthquakes in Islamabad and I imagine those tremors will be felt in India as well.”

Basit viewed that Nawaz Sharif really trusted Jindal but there was also no reason for him (Nawaz Sharif) not to trust him because after all he took a decision earlier to appoint him as foreign secretary.

Asked on what grounds he criticized former prime minister, Basit said, “I watched our leader very very closely. I make this assertion on the basis of what I have seen when Nawaz Sharif came for Modi’s inauguration. It was uncalled for to unilaterally free Indian fishermen as a gesture of goodwill. At the meeting in Delhi Nawaz Sharif kept silent on Kashmir. He did not mention Kashmir even a single time. He also did not seek a meeting with Hurriyat. I had suggested he should”.

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About the joint statement issued during the visit of Sushma Swaraj as foreign minister to Islamabad for the Heart of Asia summit in 2015, the former envoy said it was “poorly negotiated from our side. So we kept on giving, ceding, conceding too much unilaterally, both on Jammu and Kashmir as well as terrorism.”

He said Nawaz Sharif thought that by making such unilateral concessions, he would eventually be able to get concessions from Prime Minister Modi but he got nothing in return.

Sharif’s policy weakened position on Kashmir

Basit said such concessions comprised Pakistan’s interests and also weakened country’s principled position on Jammu and Kashmir in particular.

He recalled that Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Sajjan Jindal’s residence during his Indian visit and his interaction with so many journalists was not required.

“But he was all out to oblige everyone, and that, to me, was not the right thing to do,” he remarked.

Basit told the interviewer that in 2015, when Nawaz Sharif wanted to reply to a letter from Narendra Modi, he deliberately chose to give the letter to the Indian high commissioner instead of the country’s high commissioner.

Asked why he continued in the office despite being repeatedly sidelined by the government, Basit said “at one stage I did try to get myself transferred from New Delhi as well, but my efforts did not succeed.”

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Regarding the meeting between the two national security advisors on the December 6, 2015 in Bangkok, he said he was not privy to that meeting, rather he came to know about it through his contact in India.

Basit also said “Sharif had an emotional attachment to India and Indians which, at times…went beyond his stature as the Prime Minister… Obviously he was a man, you know, who would reach out to Indians without keeping in view his status.”

Commenting about Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz and Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi, Basit said, “One thing that particularly struck me was their accepting Modi’s contentions readily and working quickly to assuage his concerns”.

Moreover, he said, he was not kept in loop about the meeting between two prime ministers in Paris in November 2015.

Asked why he was not asked to join when Modi visited Lahore on Christmas in 2015, the former envoy said, “I do not know, but their actions did suggest to me that I have perhaps lost the prime minister’s confidence.”

“I was considered to be an outsider…my own ministry would prefer to conduct relations with India through its High Commissioner in Islamabad and would not keep me posted”.

To a question that if he tried to hit back Nawaz Sharif who had not appointed him as foreign secretary despite an earlier commitment, Basit accepted there was hurt but the revelations were not revenge.

“He said he is simply telling the truth and putting it on record,” he said.

APP Digital report by Ishtiaq Ahmed