Tension simmers between Pakistan, India interior ministers at Saarc meet in capital

ISLAMABAD: The interior ministers of both Pakistan and India made critical remarks apparently aimed at each other’s governments on the second day of a Saarc conference here on Thursday, as tensions between the two neighbouring countries run high in the aftermath of weeks-long violence in India-held Kashmir.

In his address to the Saarc interior ministers’ conference, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan lambasted the “use of excessive force” to suppress protests in held Kashmir, without naming the Indian government.

“Using torture against innocent children and violence against civilians qualifies as terrorism,” said the minister, adding that there was a need to end an “extremist” mindset and instead try to solve regional issues with dialogue.

Nisar said like the attacks in Pathankot, Kabul, Mumbai and Dhaka, Pakistan too has lost many innocent lives due to terrorism. “The use of blame game has not benefited anyone for the past six decades.”

In response to Nisar’s statement, India’s home minister made a more direct jibe aimed at the Pakistani government for its strong condemnation of the killing of Kashmiri separatist leader Burhan Wani by Indian forces.

“There are no good terrorists or bad terrorists,” said Rajnath Singh in his address, referring to earlier criticism the Indian state has levelled against Pakistan. “There should be no glorification or eulogising of terrorists as martyrs.”

Singh called for “strongest action not only against terrorists or organisations but also against those individuals, organisations and nations.”

No bilateral meeting between the Indian home minister and his Pakistani counterpart took place on the sidelines of the ministerial conference that ended Thursday.

‘Saarc countries should promote peace’

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif assured the Saarc conference that Pakistan will stand alongside its South Asian neighbours to eradicate corruption, organised crime and terrorism from the region.

“Pakistan on national grounds has been successful in curbing terrorism by implementing the National Action Plan and carrying out the operation Zarb-i-Azb,” said the premier.

“The success proves that Pakistan is committed towards wiping out terrorism from its territory,” he added.

The PM said Saarc countries should use their human and natural resources to promote peace and prosperity in the region.

“The Government of Pakistan wishes for peace in all countries across the region and has always supported Saarc in pursuit of its goals,” he said.

Nawaz pressed on the importance of efficient transport and communication network in the region to ensure public welfare and economic growth.

Saarc Secretary General Arjun Bahadur Thapa, who belongs to Nepal, said the issues of drugs, terrorism, cybercrime and other international crimes should be addressed immediately. He also appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to host the conference.