Al Qaeda would be delusional to think Indian Muslims will respond to its call to launch a jihad in the region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, praising the community’s love of the country.
"They are doing injustice towards the Muslims of our country," Modi told CNN, which aired excerpts of his pre-recorded interview on Friday.
"If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to their tune, they are delusional. Indian Muslims will live for India, they will die for India -- they will not want anything bad for India."
It was Modi's first reaction to al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri's announcement this month that the group would set up a new operation to wage jihad in South Asia, which has a large but traditionally moderate Muslim population. A few days later it claimed responsibility for the failed hijacking a Pakistani naval ship.
Read: Congress questions timing of Modi's statement on Indian Muslims
There have been relatively few reports of young Indian men leaving to fight Islamist causes abroad. Only recently four young men from Maharashtra were believed to have travelled to Iraq to fight for the Islamic State.
Modi said the threat from Islamist extremist groups was "a crisis against humanity, not a crisis against one country or one race.
"We have to frame this as a fight between humanity and inhumanity, nothing else," he added.
Modi's comments come amid a debate within his Bharatiya Janata Party about how to deal with religious minorities after an inflammatory by-election campaign drew the ire of rights activists and failed to win over voters.
Yogi Adityanath, the party’s star campaigner in the recent by-elections in Uttar Pradesh, has been accused of delivering inflammatory speeches against Muslims.
Ahead of a visit to meet US President Barack Obama later this week, Modi said ties between the United States and India, a Cold War ally of the Soviet Union, will continue to improve.
"From the end of the 20th century to the first decade of the 21st century we have witnessed a big change," Modi said.
"These ties will deepen further."
HT Analysis: Narendra Modi’s defence of Muslims is expediently wise