ISLAMABAD: India today delivered a blunt message to Pakistan asking it to stop encouraging terror groups and "glorification" of terrorists and also called for "strongest action" against nations supporting terrorism and their isolation.
Without mincing any words amid the strain in Indo-Pak relations, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said mere condemnation of terrorism and terrorists is not enough and that there are "no good terrorists or bad terrorists".
Singh in his address to the 7th SAARC Interiors Ministers Conference said terrorism continued to remain the biggest challenge and threat to the region.
The current strain in Indo-Pak relations was apparently evident when Singh came face-to-face with his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan for the first time today and the two leaders barely shook hands.
The two leaders barely touched their hands, not even a formal handshake, before Singh moved ahead to enter the meeting hall. Members of the Indian media, which came from New Delhi to report the conference, were not allowed to capture the moment or the conference and was kept at a distance by Pakistani officials, leading to a verbal duel between a senior Indian official and a Pakistani official.
The Home Minister also skipped the lunch being hosted by Khan after the meeting as the host had left the venue.
Speaking in Hindi at the conference, Singh said there should be "strongest action not only against terrorists or organisations but also against those individuals, organisations and nations who support terrorism."
"It also needs to be ensured that terrorism is not glorified and is not patronized by any state," Singh said in a veiled dig at Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Singh's comments came against the backdrop of Sharif's praise of Burhan Wani who was killed in an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir on July 8 and his description of Hizbul Mujahideen commander as a martyr, much to India’s ire.
"One country’s terrorist cannot be a martyr or freedom fighter for anyone. I also speak for the entire humanity- not just for India or other SAARC members – in urging that in no circumstances should terrorists be eulogised as martyrs."
Calling for isolation of countries or individuals who provide any kind of support, encouragement, sanctuary, safe haven or any assistance to terrorists, he said "strongest possible steps need to be taken not only against terrorists and terrorist organisations but also those individuals, institutions, organisations or nations that support them.
"Only this will ensure that the forces engaged in promoting the heinous crime of terrorism against humanity are effectively countered." Stressing for greater regional prosperity and cooperation between South Asian countries, Singh, however, said that mounting threats and terror incidents endanger region’s peace and stability.
"Terrorism remains the biggest challenge and threat to our peace. South Asia continues to be deeply affected by this malady, as witnessed most recently in cowardly terrorist attacks in Pathankot, Dhaka, Kabul and other places," Singh said after listening to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan.
"Merely strong condemnation of such terrorist attacks is not enough. We must harden our resolve to eradicate this menace and also take serious steps to this end," he said without mincing words.
The Home Minister also touched upon the issue of countries providing safe haven to terrorists and other criminals.
Singh said the will and the mandate of international community against proscribed and wanted terrorists and their outfits must also be respected and implemented.
"If we are to rid ourselves of terrorism, we will have to genuinely believe that attempts to distinguish between 'good' and 'bad' terrorists are misleading," he said, adding no type of terrorism or support to it can be justified on any grounds whatsoever.
Advocating an immediate and effective action against all those who support or encourage international terrorism in any way, whether they are state actors or non-state, he said "only then justice will be ensured for the victims of terrorist attacks such as in Mumbai and Pathankot. We must have the approach of 'zero tolerance' against any type of terrorism."
The Home Minister called for implementation of SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol, saying that it was "crucial" in common fight against terrorism.
The Convention includes ensuring effective measures so that those committing terrorist acts do not escape prosecution and punishment, and are extradited or prosecuted.
Singh also touched upon misuse of social and digital media, a modern-day tool used by terror groups.
"In our effort to tackle terrorism, we should look into all possible avenues of cyber-crime, its linkages with the terrorist world, and how these could be dealt with.
"Attention and efforts need to be devoted to ensure that social media and other modern technology is not misused for misleading especially the youth or promoting terrorism in any way."
He drew the attention of the participants to ratification of the SAARC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.
"We have not been able to benefit from the Convention, as some Member States are yet to ratify it. I would urge remaining Member States to consider ratifying the Convention at the earliest," he said.
He also thanked the participants for extending support to India's proposal for being the host of second Meeting of the High Level Group of Eminent Experts to Strengthen the SAARC Anti-Terrorism Mechanism in Delhi from September 22 to September 23.