Terrorism in India is “completely Pakistan-sponsored” and while India is open to resuming dialogue, Islamabad must take the first step, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Saturday.
The home minister’s comments came ahead of next week's Saarc summit in Nepal which both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, will attend. No bilateral talks are planned at the Saarc meeting but the two leaders are bound to run into each other at the summit.
He also responded to Sharif’s recent assertion that Islamabad would consult separatist leaders in Kashmir before any talks with the government, saying, “If Pakistan’s stand is clear, then so is ours.”
Rejecting Pakistan’s oft-repeated line that it was non-state actors that indulged in terrorism against India, Singh asked, “Is ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) a non-state actor?”
Linking Pakistan’s all-powerful spy agency to the al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Dawood Ibrahim and the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, he said, “Who helped Osama bin Laden? Who is helping Hafiz Saeed?... We have requested Pakistan to act against them (Mumbai attacks mastermind) but they drag their feet. So we say that terrorism is completely Pakistan-sponsored.”
Singh, however, did not shut the doors on dialogue with Pakistan but made it clear that New Delhi would not be taking the initiative in a hurry. “If not today then tomorrow, one side will have to take the first step… We have always spoken of friendship but they should take some friendly action.”
Tensions have been running high between the South Asian rivals since India called off planned talks with Pakistan this August after the Pakistani envoy met Hurriyat leaders in Delhi, saying Islamabad should choose between dialogue and hobnobbing with Kashmiri separatists.
Pakistan's stand has not changed since with Sharif saying this week that Islamabad will always consult the Hurriyat conference before talks with New Delhi.
Last month, the neighbours were locked in their worst border conflict in a decade, which left dozens of civilians dead and forced thousands of people to leave their homes. Singh pointed out how India's tough stance during the recent border conflict had paid dividend.
When Pakistan did not stop ceasefire violations despite the BSF showing white flags 16 times, Singh told the forces to hit back hard. "As you saw, Pakistan had to go to the UN to say that you intervene, you intervene. In other words, raised a hue and cry".
Pledging to “leave no stone unturned” to provide security to all its citizens irrespective of caste, creed and religion, Singh said the government had drawn up a strategy to counter attempts by international terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda to expand their foot-print to Asia and the use of social media by insurgent organizations such as ISIS to radicalise the youth.
“There are many challenges to India’s security,” the home minister said. He also promised to plug holes in India’s security along the borders with help from the Israelis and encourage insurgents and Maoists to come for talks without weapons.
Full Coverage: HT Leadership Summit