The joint press conference of Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and external affairs minister SM Krishna on July 15 was not meant to continue for 55 minutes as it did.
As is the practice with all joint pressers involving diplomatic relations, both sides had agreed on the structure of the interaction. Both ministers were to make a statement each, followed by two questions each from media delegations of India and Pakistan. This was over in less than 30 minutes.
“Let’s have more questions,” Qureshi declared abruptly. This took the Indian delegation by surprise, highly placed government sources told HT.
The presser turned ugly as the Pakistani media launched a volley of questions to Qureshi — with allegations ranging from mass rape by Indian army in Kashmir to Indian support to terrorism in Baluchistan – even as he played to the gallery with some belligerent answers.
Sources also said Qureshi’s statement that Krishna agreed with him that home secretary GK Pillai’s statement on ISI involvement in Mumbai terror attacks was also a surprise to the Indian delegation as the issue was not mentioned at any time during the formal discussions. “Pak foreign minister mentioned about Pillai’s statement during an informal chat with Krishna in the lounge,” the source said. “He was not expected to declare it in the presser.”
Qureshi’s comparison of Pillai to LeT chief Hafiz Saeed had come in answers to the first questions itself but the second half of the presser wasn’t any better for India as Krishna remained silent and Qureshi held forth.
Diplomatic sources said India had the option of only making the statements and not taking questions, particularly given the fact that the talks were ending on a bad note, if the presser was unavoidable. “Even during the joint presser of South African president Jacob Zuma and prime minister Manmohan Singh it was only statements to the camera,” he pointed out.