NEW DELHI: Journalists are required to meet everyone in the course of their work — terrorists, spies, serial killers and worse.

Has former Indian journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik met Pakistan’s Jamaat ud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed as a journalist, or was he speaking to him recently as an Indian negotiator? Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday asked her envoy in Pakistan to figure that out while denying there was any government approval by New Delhi for the meeting.

In fact, following relentless and often irritating accusations from the Congress party over the issue, she said she disapproved of the meeting altogether, regardless of which hat Mr Vaidik was wearing at the time.

“The government of India totally disapproves of this meeting of Ved Pratap Vaidik. The government condemns this meeting with the chief accused of Mumbai terror attack,” Ms Swaraj told the Rajya Sabha.

She said she had sought a report from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad about whether they were aware of this.

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She insisted the government had nothing to do with it and “nothing to hide”.

A full report has been sought from the Indian High Commission in Pakistan and it will be shared with the House, she promised.

Her response came as opposition members attacked the government over the meeting, saying its silence was intriguing and questioned how the Indian mission in Islamabad was not aware of it.

Members also wanted to know if any action would be taken against Mr Vaidik.

Ms Swaraj said the government was as ignorant as the members in the opposition about the visit and she came to know about the meeting only through media.

She also expressed ignorance about certain comments reportedly made by Mr Vaidik on Jammu and Kashmir. Opposition members termed Mr Vaidik’s extended stay in Pakistan as “intriguing”.

Mr Vaidik had gone to Pakistan as part of a delegation for an event organised by a former foreign minister in June. While rest of the delegation members had visa for only three days after which they returned, Mr Vaidik’s visa was extended and he stayed back for three weeks, leader of the opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

To this, Ms Swaraj said visas had been issued by the Pakistan government as per the request made by the delegation members.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2014

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