The Narendra Modi government’s sponsorship of air tickets of four Indian authors bound for recently concluded Karachi Literature Festival hasn’t gone down well with Congress, whose spokesperson Manish Tewari has described the move as “absolute bankruptcy” of the Centre. “It’s another example of complete and absolute bankruptcy of the Modi government when it comes to their policy towards Pakistan. Strangely, this sponsorship of Karachi Lit Fest by the ICCR, which is the government of India entity for all intents and purposes comes on the same day when the Unites States of America has denied a visa to the deputy chairperson of the Pakistani Senate,” Congress leader Manish Tewari was quoted as reacting during an interview with English news channel Times Now.
Press Trust of India (PTI) had earlier reported that the air tickets for four authors, which included renowned writer Urvashi Butalia, were paid for by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) which is an autonomous body under the Centre. The air tickets were reportedly sponsored at the behest of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. The ICCR denied reports that it had sponsored the event in any way whatsoever, as claimed in certain sections of Indian media.
“We have not sponsored the KLF. We have a very limited role,” ICCR director general Amarendra Khatua was quoted as saying by the PTI.
The literary event was held in the port city of Karachi between Feb 10 and 12, according to the report.
The news agency also quoted Indian external affairs ministry officials who said that the decision was in line with Minister Sushma Swaraj statement in Parliament last week that there was a need to forge people-to-people contacts between citizens of two countries.
PTI recalled Swaraj saying in Lok Sabha earlier, “The governments of India and Pakistan remained in touch through bilateral diplomatic channels, including for addressing all urgent humanitarian and other matters concerning people-to-people ties.”
She had also noted that the talks envisaged between Indo-Pak foreign secretaries to decide the modalities of the Composite Bilateral Dialogue, agreed during her visit to Islamabad in December 2015, could not take place due to the terrorist attack on Pathankot airbase in January 2016 and other attacks last year emanating from Pakistan.