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New Delhi: India on Friday announced a boycott of Pakistan National Day events amid tensions between the two countries over the 14 February suicide attack in Kashmir. The foreign ministry confirmed that India’s high commissioner to Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria, would not attend any official function in Islamabad.

Pakistan marks its National Day on 23 March in recognition of the passage of the Lahore Declaration on that day in 1940 calling for the creation of a separate state of Pakistan.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is the guest of honour at the ceremonies in Islamabad this year.

India’s announcement follows its decision to not send any representative at ministerial or official level to the Pakistan National Day function in New Delhi on Friday after Islamabad invited leaders of Kashmir’s separatist alliance, the All Party Hurriyat Conference, to the ceremony.

“I can confirm that India has decided not to send any representative to attend the Pakistan National Day," foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said. “Our high commissioner in Islamabad will not attend the reception being hosted there."

“You are aware of our reaction in the past... We are very clear that any attempt by the Pakistan high commission or Pakistani leaders to engage with Hurriyat representatives will not be taken lightly," Kumar said.

The presence of Hurriyat leaders at Pakistan’s National Day functions is a yearly occurrence. Last month, however, India had strongly objected to Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi telephoning Hurriyat leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani ahead of an event organized in London to mark Islamabad’s solidarity with Kashmir’s separatist movement earlier this year.

India had then called the move to call Hurriyat leaders a “brazen attempt" by Pakistan “to subvert India’s unity and to violate our sovereignty and territorial integrity".

India had conveyed to Pakistan high commissioner Sohail Mahmood that Qureshi’s call to Hurriyat leaders amounted to “direct interference" by Pakistan in India’s “internal affairs" and it had “confirmed yet again that it officially abets and encourages individuals associated with terrorism and anti-India activities".

Pakistan’s insistence on talking and consulting with Hurriyat leaders ahead of official peace talks with India have at least twice wrecked plans for the two countries to resume the official peace dialogue stalled since 2013.

The tenor of Kumar’s comments on Friday made it clear that India’s boycott followed a continuous push by Pakistan for a Hurriyat role between the two countries.

Indian political representatives who have attended Pakistan’s National Day events in previous years include minister of state for external affairs V.K. Singh, former minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar, and minister of state for agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.

Separately, news agency ANI tweeted that the Enforcement Directorate had imposed a penalty of 14.40 lakh on Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani for alleged illegal possession of foreign exchange worth $10,000.

“The Enforcement Directorate will also impose a penalty and confiscate the illegal acquisition of foreign exchange recovered from Yasin Malik, former chairman of JKLF (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front which is part of the Hurriyat). The adjudication proceedings against Yasin Malik are in progress," said a second tweet by ANI, indicating a possible crackdown on the Hurriyat.

Kumar also said that Pakistan slamming India’s acquittal of four people accused of plotting and bombing the Samjautha Express in 2007 was an attempt by Islamabad to deflect attention from the pressure it faced from the international community following the 14 February Pulwama terror attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed. The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack.

“There is a complete lack of understanding" on Pakistan’s part on how the Indian judiciary functions," Kumar said. “Due process was followed" in this case and Pakistan has not responded to requests by India seeking accounts from Pakistani witnesses, Kumar added.

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