Pakistan does not deny sending terrorists to India, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar told French daily Le Monde this week, adding that if Islamabad is serious about establishing friendlier relations with New Delhi it must hand over wanted criminals and terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Saeed. “The relationship is difficult since many years, mainly because Pakistan has developed an important terrorist industry and sends terrorists to India to carry out attacks. Pakistan itself does not deny this situation,” Mr Jaishankar said.
“Now, tell me: which country would be willing to talk and negotiate with a neighbour who openly practices terrorism against it… We need actions that demonstrate a real willingness to cooperate,” the minister said after he was asked about his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, saying relations with India were “close to zero”.
“For example, there are people wanted for terrorist activities living in Pakistan. We are telling Pakistan: hand them over to us,” he said categorically.
Early in September Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, was declared a terrorist under newly-approved amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The move was supported by the United Nations, which only three months earlier designated Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist.
Dawood Ibrahim, who is from Mumbai and is wanted for murder, extortion and other charges, figured in a list of terrorists released by the UN Security Council last year.
Mr Jaishankar, who was in Paris to attend a Peace Forum that counts Canada and New Zealand among its attendees, also touched upon the situation in Kashmir.
On a day the centre justified its strict lock-down in Jammu and Kashmir as a “necessary” move to quell protests against its contentious Article 370 decision, Mr Jaishankar said India was a “deeply democratic country” and that security measures would be rolled back now the situation was returning to normal.
“These restrictions have been gradually reduced, and as the situation normalises telephone and mobile lines have been restored, shops are open and apple harvest(ing) is under way. The situation is back to normal,” he said, adding that foreign journalists would be welcome to return once it was safe to do so.
The minister was also questioned on India-China relations, to which he said both nations were “great and it is in our common interest to have good relationships”.
Mr Jaishankar also downplayed tensions between religious minorities in India. “There are few places in the world where you will see so many people with so many beliefs co-existing,” he said, adding, “It is my country that defines my nationality, not my religion, nor my caste, nor my language”.