India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin in a symbolic gesture shook the hands of Pakistani journalists, extending his "hand of friendship" to them as he addressed the media after the UN Security Council held closed consultations on Kashmir.
The informal closed consultations, requested for by permanent member China, lasted over an hour Friday after which Beijing's Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun and Pakistan's UN envoy Maleeha Lodhi made remarks to the media at the Security Council stakeout one by one. The two left without taking even a single question from the reporters present.
Following the remarks by China and Pakistan, Akbaruddin came to the UN Security Council stakeout to give a statement on India's national position on Kashmir and Article 370.
Unlike the Chinese and Pakistani ambassadors, he stayed back after his remarks and told the large gathering of UN reporters that he will take questions from them. "I'm ready if any of you are willing to ask any questions. I will take them."
Akbaruddin said he will answer five questions, "five times more than both my predecessors who came here." He gave the first three questions to Pakistani journalists.
When a Pakistani journalist asked that will India agree to have a dialogue with Pakistan, Akbaruddin responded, "that there are normal diplomatic ways when countries deal with each other. That is the way to do it. But using terror to thrive and push your goals is not the way that normal states behave. No democracy will acknowledge or accept talks when terror thrives. Stop terror, start talks."
A senior Pakistani journalist at the UN asked "when will you begin a dialogue with Pakistan."
The Indian envoy said, "So let me begin by coming across to you and shaking your hand, all three of you," walking up from the lectern to him and shaking his hand.
Akbaruddin then walked up to the other two Pakistani journalists in the media group and shook their hands with a smile.
The gesture was cheered by those present at the UNSC stakeout.
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"So let me tell you we have 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," he said.
Several Twitter users took to the micro-blogging site to praise him for his gesture.
"The great Akbar of India," said one user.
"We really feel proud of our UN permanent representative Mr Syed Akbaruddin who put our points straight & clean," said another user.
"We as Indian are proud of Syed Akbaruddin. In our country we have unity in diversity. Pakistani learn from us the real meaning of living together with having different religions and respecting them," said one more user.
With inputs from agencies