Thanks to the belligerence of the hosts, the SAARC home ministers’ conference in Islamabad will be remembered for the disrespect shown to Home Minister Rajnath Singh. An attempt was made to force him to cancel his visit when a terrorist chief enjoying state support threatened action if he was allowed to visit the country. When that did not work, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made a bellicose statement that Kashmir was not an internal affair of India in the belief that Singh would find himself unwelcome. Pakistan was so afraid of him that it reportedly did everything possible to black out his speech. This has since been denied but it shows the level of trust between the two.
What the home minister said was that there was no good terrorism or bad terrorism as terrorism was per se unacceptable. A terrorist who died in action did not become a “martyr”. His counterpart boycotted the lunch he himself organised forcing the Indian leader also to skip it. It seems Pakistan has made up its mind to deny him the SAARC forum to speak his mind. It did not want him to say with clear evidence how the Pakistani ISI made the Mumbai and Pathankot attacks possible. All in all, Pakistan exposed itself as a nation which has no intention of turning its back on terrorism.
Nonetheless, India should not be bothered too much by the Pakistani attitude. There are some even in the country who believe that the SAARC is not a useful gathering of nations. It is not so, as India has invested considerably in the success of this multilateral forum. The SAARC university coming up fast in Delhi is a measure of the immense possibilities. India has showed its readiness to provide satellite-based navigational facilities to all the SAARC countries. As they are India’s neighbours, they can benefit from one another’s prosperity. Notwithstanding the attitude of Islamabad, India should use the forum to build better relations with other SAARC countries.