Rahul Gandhi’s meet with envoys of G20 nations called off after Pulwama attack
French ambassador Alexandre Ziegler too was expected to attend the meeting against the backdrop of the controversy over the purchase of 36 Rafale combat jets under an inter-governmental agreement between India and France.
The Congress party on Thursday called off a meeting of its president Rahul Gandhi with envoys and senior diplomats of G20 nations and neighbouring countries on Friday following the terror attack on a security forces convoy in Kashmir.
The lunch meeting at Hotel Taj Palace, located near the diplomatic enclave, was organised by the Congress party’s foreign affairs department headed by former minister Anand Sharma to outline the party’s foreign policy stance. However, Pakistan’s high commissioner was not among the invitees.
The meeting was part of the party’s outreach to key players in the diplomatic community ahead of the general election, people familiar with developments said. A new date for the meeting would be announced later, they added.
Sharma told the media late on Thursday the meeting had been cancelled in view of the terror attack. “We mourn the death of the CRPF soldiers and we join the country in this hour of grief,” he said. Besides G20 members, envoys and senior diplomats of neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, Nepal and Sri Lanka and key Asian nations such as South Korea were invited to the event, the people quoted above said. An invitation wasn’t extended to the Pakistani envoy and the people explained the decision by saying it was the prerogative of the Congress to choose the invitees. The meeting was to have been attended by Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh to give the envoys an opportunity to interact with the top party leadership on a range of issues, including their views on the neighbourhood and the emerging world order, the people said.
French ambassador Alexandre Ziegler too was expected to attend the meeting against the backdrop of the controversy over the purchase of 36 Rafale combat jets under an inter-governmental agreement between India and France. The people said the interaction would have provided an opportunity for the two sides to clear the air on the issue.
An envoy from an Asian nation invited to the meeting, who declined to be identified, said there was some concern in the diplomatic community on the Congress’ policies for the business sector, especially multinational corporations, and the meeting would allow for a discussion on such matters. There has been immense interest within the diplomatic community on the rapidly evolving political scenario ahead of the elections and the meeting will allow diplomats to hear the views of Gandhi first-hand, said another senior diplomat who too didn’t want to be identified. During the military standoff with China at Doklam in 2017, Gandhi had triggered a controversy by meeting the Chinese envoy. After being criticised by the ruling BJP, Gandhi had defended his decision by saying he had the “right” to meet the Chinese ambassador so that he “could be informed on critical issues”. Gandhi has also visited countries such as the US, Malaysia, Germany, the UAE, and Bahrain and interacted with the Indian community there.