A controversy erupted on Monday over the the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) sponsoring air tickets of four Indian authors to attend the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) amidst frosty Indo-Pak ties. The cultural body, however, maintained that it did so at the recommendation of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
“We only bought air tickets for four Indian authors and we did so at the recommendation of our High Commission in Islamabad.
“We have not sponsored the KLF. We have a very limited role,” ICCR director general Amarendra Khatua said.
Four Indian authors, including well-known writer Urvashi Butalia, attended the KLF which was held between February 10 and 12 in Pakistan.
Interestingly, ICCR’s sponsorship of the authors comes weeks after Pakistan declined an invitation to attend the South Asian Speakers’ Summit, which is being hosted by India on February 18-19 in Indore. The summit is being organised by Parliament and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
Downplaying the ICCR action, officials in New Delhi referred to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s remarks in Parliament last week that India wishes to have good neighbourly relations with Pakistan.
“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,” Swaraj had said in the Lok Sabha.
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.