'China will come on track over Masood Azhar': Rajnath Singh talks diplomacy, Pakistan and elections

Home Minister Rajnath Singh in an interview on Saturday said he would not consider China's decision on Masood Azhar a diplomatic failure. Nor would he consider the situation with Pakistan worthy of diplomacy unless the neighbouring country stops its alliances with terrorism.

On the brink of yet another national election in his 50-year-long political career, Singh sat with Network18 group editor Rahul Joshi for a talk on the particular situation his country and his party are both in.

When it comes to China, Singh was certain that it is only a matter of time before the country acquiesces and stops blocking the entry of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Azhar into the United Nations Security Council's "global terrorists" list.

China will come on track over Masood Azhar: Rajnath Singh talks diplomacy, Pakistan and elections

File Image of Home Minister Rajnath Singh. News18

"I am assured that China will come on track. It would be wrong to consider it (China's recent hold on the Azhar proposal) a diplomatic failure. China has put a technical hold, but we will positively be successful next time. We shall have dialogues with China. India is never disappointed. There must have been some reasons why China took this step — every nation has its compulsions — so it won't be fair to break ties with China," the minister said.

"Rational thinkers take time before arriving at a decision. We cannot break ties with China because of one or two reasons," Singh said. "I am confident. It will take time. But China will fall in line."

India's foreign policies, he seemed to suggest, have already noted a victory. "For the first time, India's External Affairs Minister (Sushma Swaraj) was invited as a guest of honour at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. What bigger diplomatic success could there be than this?" he said.

Swaraj's address at the OIC took place amidst rising tensions between India and the one country which refused to attend the OIC meet due to her presence, Pakistan. On this neighbour, Rajnath was firm that there cannot be hope of peace without concrete measures taken.

"Terrorism and dialogues cannot go hand in hand. First, Pakistan should stop its terror activities. If such an effort is made, dialogue can happen. Pakistan must announce assertively that it won't allow terrorism to flourish on its soil and take effective measures against it," he said.

What of the national pastimes of both these countries? Singh would leave the issue of cricket to the relevant authorities. "World Cup organisers need to decide whether India and Pakistan should play together or not. Whatever decision is taken, national self-respect must be kept in mind," he said.

This national self-respect is also something that Singh felt is compromised when things like the Balakot air strike are politicised. "Why are leaders in India in shock over this? It is most unfortunate that they question the air strike. When any Indian asks for the number of casualty, they question the valour of our soldiers. They (Opposition party leaders) must understand that we are not into marketing gimmicks," he said.

When asked to comment on his statement about three surgical strikes taking place in the last five years, Singh said, "I don't have an issue saying that the third strike didn't happen in Pakistan."

"It's also a known truth that the (Balakot) air strike caused huge shock and worry for Pakistan. But I'm surprised that despite knowing this truth, some people are still raising questions about the air strikes," he said.

"The government has not done any marketing of the air strikes. Of course, it is true that we praised the valour of our air force," he said.

When asked whether the Pulwama attack took place because of intelligence gathering failure, Singh said, "Sometimes, we get an intelligence input about the possiblity of an attack but we are unable to get the specifics of the information. The matter is being investigated. I can only speak on it after the probe is completed."

When asked whether he thought Balakot air strikes will help BJP in the elections, Singh said, "I would request you not to link Balakot air strikes to national politics. That's why I condemned those who questioned the air strikes. I don't believe the party will benefit from the Balakot air strikes."

When speaking on the Kashmir issue, Singh said that elections will be held there soon. "Elections in Kashmir will be held soon. You saw we conducted local body, rural panchayat and municipal body elections there. Election Commission will also decide soon when elections are held there," he said.

"We also want an elected government in Jammu and Kashmir," he added. On the attacks on Kashmiris in India after the Pulwama terror attack, Singh said, "I don't agree that there have been a lot of attacks on Kashmiris. Immediately after the attack, I appointed a special secretary because I feared such attacks would take place. At all my public meetings, I have said that Kashmiri children are our children. I have appealed to BJP workers also to treat people from Kashmir with respect."

"The truth is that 90 percent of people in Kashmir want to live in peace and want development," he said.

Singh also praised the prime minister and said that his popularity was still as high. "People believe that Narendra Modi takes strong decisions. People also believe that the prime minister is dead honest and a visionary," he said.

The home minister said that the core issues for BJP for this election were "good governance and development". "For the road ahead, we are preparing the election manifesto. We are trying to understand the aspirations of the masses," he said.

He claimed that the country had risen to new heights under the Modi government and said that Opposition leaders were trying to fudge numbers by claiming that the government had failed in job creation. "Within five years, India has grown into one of the ten fastest growing economies in the world. Economists worldwide are now accepting that India can be in the top three countries in the next 10-12 years," he said.

"A political leader may fudge facts but figures can't be wrong. Under Mudra scheme, 4-4.5 crore youth have taken first time loans. This is besides other skill development programmes. Road construction under our government is the fastest it has been. So if this government has done so much work, how can job creation decline?" he added.

On the Lok Sabha election 2019, Singh said, "For Congress, forming coalitions is a compulsion. FOr BJP, coalition is about commitment. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the first prime minister who took along 24 parties and ran a coalition government for six years."

Singh also claimed that BJP's "number of allies have gone up."

"Shiv Sena is our old ally. Sena and JD(U) are like our family members. Yes, we will take them along, even if we get a clear majority," he said. On the Mahagathbandhan, Singh said, "Forget Maha, they're not even a gathbandhan."

Singh also believed that the Modi wave is still intact. "In 2014, people had not seen Modi working at a national level. Only people in Gujarat had seen his governance. In the last five years, people have seen his style of governance up close. People's trust in him has gone up."

On BJP's loss in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, Singh said, "In Madhya Pradesh, we had a government for 15 years. It seems people wanted a change of taste. BJP's vote percentange in Madhya Pradesh was 0.5 percent more than Congress. We accept defeat in Chhattisgarh. We didn't lose too badly in Rajasthan. Sometimes, there is local anti-incumbency. But that doesn't necessarily mean that there is anti-incumbency at a national level."

The home minister also said that BJP will also get the minority votes. "We will get minority votes as well. This government has created a sense of security in the minorities," he said.

On the allegations made in the Rafale deal controversy, Singh said, "These are totally baseless charges. It is Congress that is to blame. UPA did not puchase second generation fighter planes. For 30 years, it is unfortunate India did not buy the next generation planes. Such a move by our government should be welcomed. All the files are in the defence minsitry."

"People who tried to get confidential papers photocopied should be punished," he said.

On the Ram Mandir issue, Singh said, "The process is on in the Supreme Court. They have formed a mediation team. Let's see what happens in two months. We'd be happy with the early construction of the Ram Temple. Even my Muslim friends say they want an end to all this."

Singh was not worried about the spectre of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Uttar Pradesh this election. "Everyone is working. So is she. Her entry into politics will not make much of a difference. Several people venture into politics. New people join politics," he said.

The veteran is also convinced that Lucknow, his mainstay for several years, is where he will contest from. "Modi ji will contest from Varanasi," he said.

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Updated Date: Mar 16, 2019 22:28:18 IST

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