Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday obliquely asked Pakistan not to glorify terrorists while Islamabad, in a clear reference to Jammu and Kashmir, denounced the use of “excessive force” against civilians.
Tension ran high between Rajnath Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nisar Ali Khan at the meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) interior ministers here. But both stopped short of naming each other’s country.
“It needs to be ensured that terrorism is not glorified and is not patronized by any state. One country’s terrorist cannot be a martyr or freedom fighter for anyone,” Rajnath Singh said.
“Those who provide support, encouragement, sanctuary, safe haven or any assistance to terrorism or terrorists must be isolated. We must harden our resolve to eradicate this menace and also take serious steps to this end.”
The Indian minister’s criticism was obviously targeted at the Pakistan government. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last month had described slain pro-Pakistan Kashmiri rebel commander Burhan Wani as a “martyr” who died fighting for the “freedom” of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan also observed a black day against the killing of Wani, who was shot dead by Indian security forces in Kashmir. His killing triggered a bloody unrest – blamed on Pakistan by India.
Over 50 people have been killed in clashes between security forces and Kashmiri protesters in nearly a month of turmoil.
The Kashmir unrest didn’t figure in the Saarc discussion but its reference was pervasive.
Khan, in his speech earlier, said the “use of excessive force” to suppress civilian unrest was also terrorism.
“Using torture against innocent children and violence against civilians qualifies as terrorism,” he said.
He stressed on the need to end an “extremist” mindset and instead to solve regional issues with dialogue.
Rajnath Singh said countries needed to take “strongest possible steps” not only against terrorists and their organisations but also against “individuals, institutions, organisations or nations that support them”.
He said that the world needed to believe that “attempts to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists are misleading”.
“No type of terrorism or support to it can be justified on any grounds whatsoever. An immediate and effective action is required against all those who support or encourage international terrorism in any way, whether they are state actors or non-state.”
It was the first visit by an Indian minister to Pakistan after the January attack on the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot, also blamed on Pakistani terrorists.
Rajnath Singh arrived here on Wednesday evening amid anti-India protests organized by terror groups including the United Jehad Council – a militant amalgam of groups fighting in Kashmir but based in Pakistan.
Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, the chief the Lashkar-e-Taiba, also led an anti-India rally in Lahore where he lashed out at the Pakistan government for allowing Rajnath Singh to visit Islamabad.
The Indian minister was taken to his hotel in a chopper as he was given a “presidential level security” amid threats by the militant groups.
No bilateral meeting between the Indian home minister and his Pakistani counterpart took place.
Media reports said the two ministers barely shook hands as Khan greeted the Saarc home ministers at the luxurious Serena Hotel in Islamabad.