Rajnath Singh, who was in Islamabad to attend the Saarc meet of home ministers, sent out a strong message to the neighbouring country. Singh had delivered a stern speech asking Pakistan to stop encouraging terror groups and "glorification" of terrorists, while calling for "strongest action" against nations supporting terrorism and their isolation.
Singh said that mere condemnation of terrorism and terrorists were not enough and that there are "no good terrorists or bad terrorists"; his comments came against the backdrop of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's praise of Burhan Wani, who was killed in an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir on 8 July, and his description of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander as a martyr, much to India's ire.
After coming back to India, Singh briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday on his visit to Pakistan.
Singh's Pakistani counterpart Nisar Ali Khan criticised the former's comments, according to The Times of India, saying that there was a difference between fighting for terrorism and freedom. Khan added that only brute force against children and "torture of civilians" is terrorism and that it was imperative that regional issues be solved through dialogue. "It's important to respect the fundamental human rights of people and not suppress freedom struggle in the name of fight against terrorism," he was quoted by TOI as saying.
Earlier at the meet, things were frosty with the ministers as they barely shook hands, and members of the Indian media, who came from New Delhi to report the conference, were not allowed to capture the moment and was kept at a distance by Pakistani officials, which led to a verbal dual between a senior Indian official and a Pakistani official.
Singh also skipped a lunch hosted by Khan, which was scheduled after the main meeting. The Pakistani Interior Minister left the venue immediately after the meeting got over, despite being the host of the lunch. Singh then took the decision to skip the lunch.
India later described the reports of media blackout during the Saarc meet as misleading. "With reference to the meeting in Islamabad earlier on Thursday, media reports of a blackout of our Home Minister's statement are misleading."
It is the standard Saarc practice that the opening statement by the host country is public and open to the media, while the rest of the proceedings are in camera, which allows for a full and frank discussion of issues," a government source said.
An Interior Ministry official source from Islamabad also confirmed that there was no such blackout of Rajnath's speech as none of the speeches of participating ministers was shown. "It is true that his (Rajnath's) speech was not shown live because (the) speech(es) of none of the participating ministers was shown live by the state media." He further said only the inaugural session was shown live when Sharif and Khan made welcome speeches.
At the Saarc meet, Sharif said that Pakistan is committed to jointly working with Saarc member countries for fighting terrorism, corruption and organised crimes. "Pakistan has always been supportive of initiatives taken by Saarc to advance its ideals and objectives as enshrined in its charter," he said.
With inputs from PTI