The Telegraph
Wednesday , July 16 , 2014
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Vaidik row swamps House, govt denies link

New Delhi, July 15: Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj today denied any government role in Ved Pratap Vaidik’s meeting with Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed before going on to voice her disapproval after the cross-border tryst led to an uproar in Parliament for the second day running.

“I want to state categorically and unequivocally that the government has no link with Vaidik’s visit. It was his personal visit and the government had no communication with him,” she told both Houses of Parliament.

“This meeting,” the minister added, “is not only worthy of disapproval but should also be condemned.”

Sushma’s statement followed an internal probe by the ministry of external affairs into whether any official had been aware of Vaidik’s plans to meet Saeed, officials said.

They said the foreign office had asked the Indian high commission in Islamabad to find out if any of its staff knew that Vaidik, a former editor who describes himself as a “senior journalist”, was planning to meet Saeed. In a report today, the high commission said it was neither involved, nor aware, of any such plans.

Sushma’s comments came as Vaidik’s July 2 meeting with the man India accuses of plotting the November 2008 Mumbai attack rocked both the Houses. The Lok Sabha was adjourned twice and the Rajya Sabha thrice.

The minister spoke first in the Lok Sabha, where the Congress protested at the well and demanded a clarification from the government. “The man (Vaidik) is an RSS man. We are curious to know if the Indian embassy facilitated this meeting,” Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who joined his party’s protest, told reporters outside the lower House.

The Rajya Sabha saw two adjournments in the morning. Another followed when the House reconvened at 2pm. Later, urban development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu assured the House that the foreign minister would clarify the government’s position.

After Sushma arrived around 4.30, leader of Opposition in the House Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Congress did not say that Vaidik was an “emissary” of the government but wanted a clarification regarding national security.

Deputy leader of Opposition Anand Sharma said there were lingering doubts about how and who facilitated the meeting with Saeed.

Congress MPs asked why the BJP was not protesting like it had done when Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik met Saeed a few years ago. “The BJP had asked for his (Malik’s) arrest (then),” party MP Digvijaya Singh said.

BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi took potshots at the Congress, quoting from a write-up by Vaidik that allegedly said he “is close to Rahul”. It triggered immediate protests from the Congress benches, with some MPs demanding that the remark be expunged.

Venkaiah Naidu intervened to say that if the remarks were “derogatory”, the BJP had no problem in expunging them.

Sushma spoke last, repeating what she had said earlier in the day in the Lok Sabha. She also said the government would share the high commission’s report with Parliament.