Pakistan’s support to terrorism must end first before dialogue with India; says Modi

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By Smita Prakash

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that it would be a “huge mistake to believe that Pakistan would mend its ways anytime soon”, and that his government is working out various strategies to keep the pressure up on Islamabad “to check terrorism”.

In an exclusive interview to ANI news agency, which was carried by all media outlets in India on New Year’s Day, Modi said that India had a consistent policy that no prime minister ever opposed dialogue with Pakistan.

“It will be a huge mistake to believe that Pakistan will mend its ways after a war. It will take a lot of time for Pakistan to mend its ways,” Modi said in the interview.

Modi added whether it was so-called surgical strikes or any other action, the Indian government was working out various strategies to keep pressure up on Pakistan.

Modi said India favoured dialogue and good friendly relations with Pakistan, but alleged that Islamabad was not going to mend it ways of promoting cross-border terrorism any time soon. “We have always wanted dialogue — it is not a question of Modi or [former prime minister] Manmohan [Singh]…”

But when asked about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s dialogue offer, he said that “we have always maintained that their support to terror must end first” claiming that “we have successfully managed to isolate Pakistan on the global arena”.

Talking about the surgical strike, Narindera Modi said; “I personally believe that surgical strikes should not be politicised. There are some political parties who began to speak the same language as Pakistan. These parties were demeaning our armed forces. They politicised such an issue,” he added.

Modi said that whether it is surgical strikes or action at other levels, the Indian government is working out various strategies to keep up the pressure on Pakistan to check terrorism.

Prime Minister Modi said that while India favours a dialogue and good friendly relations with Pakistan, it is also wary of the fact that the neighbouring country is not going to mend it ways of promoting cross border terrorism any time soon. 

When asked why cross border attacks have not stopped after the surgical strikes PM Modi replied, “Whatever strategy is to be adopted, how to do, is ongoing at appropriate levels, has been happening. 1965 war, war during partition …Ek ladai se Pakistan sudhar jayega, yeh sochne mein bahut badi galti hogi. Pakistan ko sudharne mein abhi aur samay lagega. (It will be a huge mistake to believe that Pakistan will mend its ways after a war. It will take a lot of time for Pakistan to mend its ways.)

“India, whether under UPA or NDA government, has never opposed dialogue. It is our consistent policy that we are in favour of dialogue. It is the consistent policy of the country, not Modi government or Manmohan Singh government. It is our consistent policy that we are ready to talk on all issues, not this issue or that issue. Because India’s argument is strong. We only say one thing that amid the noise of bombs and guns, the dialogue cannot be heard. Cross-border terrorism must end. And we are persistently maintaining pressure on this,” Prime Minister said.

He added that India has created an environment that terror-supporting Pakistan stands isolated in the world. On a question whether he will go to Pakistan if invited by his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan for SAARC, Prime Minister said: “We will cross the bridge when we reach there.”

On his government’s foreign policy with regard to China, Prime Minister said India should be judged on the basis of what it did in Doklam. He asserted that nothing has happened with India since then that can be considered as deceit.  “Our principled position has been that we want friendly relations with neighbours,” he added.

During the interview, Prime Minister also responded to the criticism of his much publicised foreign tours being too many and more photo opportunities rather than substantial, saying his travel schedule has been more or less similar to that of his predecessors but his visits are noticed more because he interacts with people, takes decisions and makes India’s voice heard.

 “If you count, there are number of multi-lateral forums, Summit level meetings. If the level is lower than Prime Minister, the voice is not heard. Manmohan Singhji also had to do these summits. It has become mandatory. I try that India’s voice reaches the world. Earlier, when PM used to go, nobody used to notice at the place they arrived in, even the place from where they departed no one noticed. My visits are noticed because I interact with people and take decisions,” Prime Minister said.

Speaking about his Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prospects in the general elections later this year, he appeared confident of doing well despite the recent losses in state polls. “No reason for morale down. We are confident and are moving ahead. In 2019, if there is one party which the country trusts and is connected with the people, it is the BJP.”

Modi said it was more important to focus on his government’s achievements, including the introduction in September of a new healthcare scheme for the poor. “In such big numbers people suffering, today they have got treatment, how can I consider this a failure. It is my biggest achievement,” Modi said.

He said party has been discussing what it lacked at the state elections but winning or losing was not the only yardstick. “Our effort is to take everyone along, and listen to everyone. I am committed to give importance to regional aspirations. The country cannot be run by ignoring regional aspirations.”