The Foreign Office (FO) on Saturday criticised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his attempt to "twist" recent comments made by federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry in order to suggest Pakistan's involvement in the attack in occupied Kashmir's Pulwama last year.
In a statement, the FO spokesperson asked the BJP-led Indian government to "stop dragging Pakistan into India’s domestic politics", saying New Delhi had failed to provide any credible evidence of Pakistan’s alleged involvement in the Pulwama attack.
The February 14, 2019, attack on Indian paramilitary troops had killed at least 40 soldiers. India accused Pakistan of being behind the attack from the get-go — a charge vehemently denied by Islamabad — and the tensions that followed brought India and Pakistan to the brink of an all-out war.
Fawad's recent reference to the Pulwama attack was construed by the Indian media as a "sensational admission" of Pakistan's alleged involvement in it.
"Humne Hindustan ko ghuss kay mara hai (We struck India in their home)," the minister said in the National Assembly on Thursday while referring to the Pakistan Air Force's response to India's violation of its airspace on February 26 last year. "Our success in Pulwama is the success of this nation under [Prime Minister] Imran Khan's leadership."
As other lawmakers sought for the minister to explain his words, Fawad said: "The way we hit India inside their territory after the Pulwama incident [...] India's own media and political leadership is embarrassed by that."
The minister's remarks came while he was responding to PML-N leader and former speaker Ayaz Sadiq, who had caused a political storm by suggesting a day earlier in the parliament that the PTI government had released Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in capitulation, fearing an imminent attack from India.
Although Fawad had stressed that only a part of his speech was being used to misinterpret his remarks, Indian Prime Minister Modi too alluded to his statement as being a "confession" by Pakistan of its involvement in the Pulwama attack.
Speaking at a ceremony in the Indian state of Gujarat on Saturday, Modi suggested that Fawad's comments had "exposed" elements in the country that questioned the Pulwama attack and allegedly played politics on it.
“The country will not forget those distasteful comments and accusations during the Pulwama attack. I silently endured the allegations, but I had a deep wound in my heart for my brave soldiers who had laid down their lives. But today, there has been news from the neighbouring country, which has exposed these divisive forces who questioned the Pulwama soldiers,” Modi said without naming Pakistan, according to the Indian Express.
Reacting to his claims, FO spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said Pakistan "categorically rejects" the Indian prime minister's insinuation of Pakistan’s involvement in the Pulwama attack "by alluding to remarks made by a minister in the National Assembly".
"This is a brazen attempt to twist the remarks of the federal minister, who was referring to the befitting response given by the Pakistan Armed Forces in broad daylight to India's ill-conceived misadventure of February 26, 2019, in violation of the UN Charter and international law," he added.
Zahid said it was the BJP leadership’s "incurable obsession with Pakistan" that drove them to invariably blame Pakistan for their own failings and shortcomings, noting that "it has been a part and parcel of the BJP’s electoral strategy to raise the Pakistan ‘bogey’ in the attempt to galvanise voters’ support, while seeking to divert public attention from their domestic and foreign policy failures."
According to the spokesperson, Pakistan firmly believed that the "biggest beneficiary" of the Pulwama attack was the BJP government, "as it resulted in BJP’s landslide victory in Lok Sabha elections following their virulent anti-Pakistan electoral campaign".
He said India had failed to provide any credible evidence about Pakistan’s alleged involvement in the attack to this day.
"The BJP regime is advised, once again, to stop dragging Pakistan into India’s domestic politics, especially at the time of elections in India," Zahid said.
Instead of mobilising its electorate by stoking anti-Pakistan sentiments, the FO spokesperson asked the BJP to "win voter support by demonstrating actual performance in meeting the expectations of the Indian people".