India’s UN Envoy’s “Hand Of Friendship” to Pak journalists

United Nations: Syed Akbaruddin, India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, made a symbolic gesture of extending “the hand of friendship” to Pakistani journalists on Friday, during a media briefing after the UN Security Council held a closed-door meeting to discuss New Delhi’s move to end special status for Jammu and Kashmir. India had said that the country’s national position was and remains that matters related to Kashmir are “entirely an internal matter”.

Akbaruddin spoke to the media after the representatives of China and Pakistan had spoken. He first asked three Pakistani journalists to shoot their questions.

“When will you begin a dialogue with Pakistan?” one of the Pakistani journalists asked him.

Akbaruddin stepped away from his podium, walked up to the senior Pakistani reporter and shook his hands, saying, “Let me begin by coming across to you and shaking your hands.”

He went on shake hands with two other Pakistani journalists. The top diplomat’s informality and humour disarmed them and drew friendly laughs in the packed briefing room.

“Let me tell you, we’ve already extended our hand of friendship by saying we are committed to the Simla Agreement. Let us wait for a response on that from the Pakistani side,” Akbaruddin added, walking back to the podium.

A Pakistani reporter had earlier asked why there was no contact between the neighbours and why India had not responded to requests for talks.

“Stop terror to start talks,” Akbaruddin replied.

He said Pakistan was trying to project an alarmist approach to the situation which is far from ground realities. “Of particular concern is that one state is using terminology of ‘jihad’ against and promoting violence in India including by their leaders,” he said.

Friday’s rare closed-door meeting at the UN was called after Pakistan – backed by its all -weather ally – China, requested “closed consultations” on India’s big move on Jammu and Kashmir.

Akbaruddin said the government is committed to gradually removing all restrictions in Kashmir and the government is undertaking steps towards normalcy.