India Friday offered to help Pakistan eliminate terror on its soil following Prime Minister Imran Khan’s glaring admission that his country housed “30,000 to 40,000” jehadists.
In an exclusive interview to Aaj Tak, his first after assuming charge as Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh maintained that any future talks with Islamabad would focus solely on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Singh, however, regretted that the Imran Khan government has displayed no sincerity in taking action against Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed and other terrorists.
READY TO HELP PAKISTAN
The Pakistan Prime Minister, noted Singh, has acknowledged the presence of terrorists in his country.
“Imran Khan has accepted this. If you are sincere about controlling terror but are unable to do it, you can take your neighbour India’s cooperation should you like,” the Defence Minister offered. “Why not act against terrorists together?”
But Pakistan has taken no concrete measure against terror, Singh added.
“It doesn’t seem they have intentions (to fight the scourge). No sincere effort is being made against terrorists,” the Defence Minister remarked in response to Pakistan’s claims about action against Hafiz Saeed.
INDIA BATTLE READY
Singh warned Islamabad against any misadventure, saying India is far more prepared to deal with any eventuality if a war breaks out.
“A lot of changes have happened because of military upgrade that took place after the the Kargil events,” he said, remembering the heroes of the 1999 conflict with Pakistan. “Our military has acquired the latest weaponry. If a war takes place, God forbid, our victory will be even more glorious than that achieved by our soldiers in 1965, 1971 or 1999. That way, we are better prepared,” he added.
The Defence Minister, however, insisted that India, on its own, seeks no conflict.
“We are a peace-loving nation. Even during Balakot strikes, we didn’t attack the Pakistani army or impacted Pakistan’s sovereignty. But we are very much capable. Our forces are much more capable than before, be it the army, the IAF or the navy,” he said. “As Defence Minister, I would like to assure the country that no power in the world can hurt India’s pride.”
TALKS WITH PAKISTAN
Singh made it clear that any negotiation with Pakistan would only be held over PoK.
“If talks are to take place, they will be held on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. I have said this before,” he said.
Singh shared his memories of the Kargil events.
Then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he recalled, had tried to mend ties by visiting Lahore and signing the Lahore declaration with Islamabad. “But Pakistan showed its true colours, which resulted in a war from May 26 till July 26, 1999,” Singh said.
Without fearing for their lives, Indian soldiers wiped out Pakistani intruders perched on high mountains, the Defence Minister recalled. “Pakistan betrayed both PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and India.”
Singh explained that India has strengthened its intelligence-gathering capabilities considerably since 1999.
“I would like to assure the nation that our intelligence-gathering has improved significantly now. We get real-time information about any movements along our borders,” he said.
India, Singh added, has begun using technological solutions in border security.
The new systems will be applied country-wide if the pilot projects deliver successful results, the Defence Minister said.
TRUMP’S MEDIATION REMARKS
Asked about India’s position on Jammu and Kashmir in the wake US President Donald Trump’s remarks about mediation, the Defence Minister ruled out any change in New Delhi’s no-mediation policy.
“The question does not arise,” he said. “S. Jaishankar, the external affairs minister, has already issued a statement and he himself was present there. There’s no change in India’s stance (about no third-party mediation on Jammu and Kashmir).”
The Defence Minister promised full government support to soldiers rendered disabled in action.
Issues regarding income tax on disability pension are being taken up with the Finance Ministry, he said.
“I have asked the Defence Ministry to sort out income-tax issues with the Finance Ministry on the matter. I want to assure our jawans that if any soldier is disabled in war, counter-terror or counter-insurgency operations, their interests will be fully protected. We stand beside them.”