New Delhi, Aug 5 (IANS) Miffed over the treatment he received in Pakistan, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said India has always tried to be friendly with its reluctant neighbour but “yeh padosi hai ki maanta nahin” and continues supporting terrorism.
“We can change friends but not neighbours. Our Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) has been friendly with Pakistan. We have always tried to work out our ties with them,” Rajnath Singh said.
He was speaking in both houses of parliament separately, a day after he returned from Islamabad where he attended a meeting of interior/home ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) nations on cooperation to fight crime and terrorism.
The regional conference was overshadowed by the India-Pakistan tension amid an ongoing bloody unrest in Kashmir. India has blamed Pakistan for stoking trouble in the valley where over 50 persons have been killed in nearly a month of turmoil. The unrest was triggered by the July 8 killing of pro-Pakistan Kashmiri rebel commander Burhan Wani.
“A terrorist in one nation cannot be a martyr or freedom fighter for anyone,” Rajnath Singh said, referring to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s remarks describing the militant commander as a “martyr”.
“They (Pakistan) should not make the mistake of distinguishing between good terrorism and bad terrorism. It is necessary to take all effective steps against states or non-state actors encouraging or supporting terrorism.”
In Islamabad, the Home Minister made similar comments at the Saarc conference and criticised the Pakistan government for supporting terrorism and allowing ant-India activities on its soil. Terror groups had organized roadside demonstrations in Pakistan against the Indian minister’s visit.
Journalists accompanying the Home Minister from India were not allowed inside the venue hall to cover the conference after which Rajnath Singh made a hasty retreat and skipped the lunch hosted by his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
As he briefed the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on his visit, opposition lawmakers rallied behind the government and condemned Pakistan over the treatment meted out to Rajnath Singh there.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said it was a “disappointing” behaviour on part of the host country.
Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav “strongly” condemned “how Pakistan didn’t maintain protocol and treated our Home Minister”.
The minister, however, said he won’t comment on whether the Pakistan government behaved “well with me”.
“I did what I had to do to uphold the dignity of our country. It is true that the Pakistan Interior Minister invited everyone for lunch. But then he left in his car. I also left. I have no complaints as I had not gone there to have a lunch.”
On reports that his anti-terror speech was blacked out, Rajnath Singh said “it is difficult” to say if it was deliberately censored from being covered live or it was a norm for Saarc events.
“I am not aware of protocol norms followed during (the) previous (Saarc) events. But it is true that the reporters from India were not allowed inside,” the Home Minister said, as lawmakers in unison shouted “shame” on Pakistan.
He also urged Pakistan and other Saarc nations to ratify conventions against crimes and terrorism.
“It is important for nations who have not ratified Saarc conventions on mutual assistance. Pakistan has also not ratified this convention.
“I was told on behalf of Pakistan that they will soon act on ratifying these. I hope that ‘soon’ is actually soon.”
He said India has asked all Saarc member nations, including Pakistan, to take effective steps against terrorism of all kinds and help extradite suspects hiding there.