NEW DELHI: Rajnath Singh on Friday did little to hide his disappointment on his maiden visit as Home Minister to Pakistan. Singh, who arrived here on Thursday after attending the SAARC Home Ministers Meeting in Islamabad, hinted at not being offered courtesies and hospitality extended to dignitaries visiting India.
He said the Indian media accompanying him was not allowed to cover the conference and was kept away from the venue. “Pakistan interior minister (Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan) invited everyone for lunch. But then he left in his car. I also left,” he said while making a statement in both Houses of Parliament. But then he said he had no complaints or grudge as “I had not gone there to have lunch”.
Singh’s statement was greeted with overwhelming support from members cutting across party lines, several of whom demanded revisiting the government’s Pakistan policy. Rajnath said all Indian PMs, regardless of party affiliations, have done their best to improve relations with neighbours, but Pakistan’s response has not been positive. “Yeh padosi hai ki maanta hi nahi hai,” Rajnath said, amid a thunderous applause from members.
He said that as Home Minister, India’s prestige was paramount for him and he did what should have been done by him. Singh, however, stopped short of slamming Pakistan for not extending the proper courtesies, stressing that “I have no qualms or complaints”. But then he also reminded the neighbour that “India is known globally for its ‘meheman nawaazi (hospitality).”
On whether there was no telecast of his speech, Singh said he was not aware of the convention and would need to ask the Ministry of External Affairs regarding it. “I saw people protesting at several places in groups of 10-25 or 100,” he said, adding “had I bothered about the protest, I probably wouldn’t have gone to Pakistan”. He wished that good sense prevails with Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the External Affairs Ministry lashed out at Pakistan for adopting a “restrictive approach” on not allowing the Indian media inside the conference venue and refusing visa to other media representatives who applied for it.