Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh, a day after a terse war of words with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Interior Ministers’ meeting in Islamabad on Thursday, apprised the Indian parliament of his visit.
“All of our prime ministers have done their best to improve relations with our neighbours, but this neighbour never learns,” he said referring to Pakistan amid a smattering of laughter in the house.
In a response to Nisar’s remarks about Indian violation of human rights in Kashmir, Rajnath told the Indian parliament that “Pakistan is the biggest violator of human rights”, NDTV reported.
The Indian home minister said he had skipped a luncheon meeting as he ‘had not gone there to have lunch’.
“It is true that Chaudhry Nisar invited everyone for lunch. But then he left in his car. I also left. I have no complaints or grudges as I had not gone there to have lunch,” he said.
Singh said that journalists accompanying him were not allowed to cover his speech, according to Indian media reports.
“I will not comment on whether Pakistan was right or wrong in not allowing coverage. I did not register any protest there. I will need to ask the foreign ministry about protocol of past occasions,” he said.
The only broadcaster allowed inside the venue was Pakistan Television, Dawn earlier reported.
The Press Trust of India quoting a government source said it is standard Saarc practice for the host country’s opening statements to be made public and open to the media, while the rest of the proceedings are in camera, which allows for a frank discussion of issues.
According to the Press Trust of India, an interior ministry official in Islamabad also said that there was no such blackout of Singh’s speech as none of the speeches of participating ministers was shown.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar during the Saarc meet ─ after relinquishing his position as chairman of the meeting ─ had issued a rejoinder to Rajnath Singh when the Indian home minister indirectly accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism.
Nisar termed the use of “torture against innocent children and violence against civilians” as terrorism and added there was a need to “take time out to reflect and sit together to try and work out the problems and reservations that we might harbour towards each other” instead of engaging in blame games and taking swipes at each other.
The interior minister said Pakistan was ready to engage in any dialogue process based on mutual respect and dignity with no string attached. “It is for those who have put conditions and sub-conditions for initiating dialogue to reconsider and realign their position,” he said.
The interior minister’s remarks came at a time when tensions are running high between the two nuclear-armed neighbours over fresh unrest and killings by security forces in India-held Kashmir. His remarks rendered Rajnath Singh speechless, and he chose not to respond.
The strains in relations were evident when Nisar and Singh came across each other for the first time.
The interior minister was receiving the guests at the entrance to the conference’s venue when the Indian minister arrived; the two did not even shake hands properly.
Addressing the meeting, the Indian minister had called for tough action against terrorism and countries supporting it. “Terrorists should not be glorified as ‘martyrs’. There is no good or bad terrorism. Terrorism is terrorism,” he maintained.