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We Shouldn’t Judge Saudi Arabia for its Close Ties with Pakistan, Says Ram Madhav

BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav said Saudi Arabia is India's very important partner in counter-terrorism and has been helping the country by sharing intelligence.

Anand Narasimhan |

Updated:February 21, 2019, 9:04 AM IST

Calling Saudi Arabia one of India’s "very important" partners in counter-terrorism, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav on Wednesday said that one shouldn’t look at Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman's visit to India through the prism of the $20 billion deal his country has signed with Pakistan.

In an interview with CNN-News18, Madhav said the sole aim of Pakistan is to cause damage to India and we therefore shouldn’t expect a mature response from the country regarding terrorism. Excerpts:

You heard Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan. Not a word of condolence. How do you respond to this and how should India respond to this?

We don’t expect any favourable or mature response from Pakistan because it is a partner in crime. Pakistan is the perpetrator of terror in India. It's not just the Pulwama attack, Pakistan is continuously promoting terror in India. I am not surprised but we have to act in a mature way as a country. We have handled terrorism in the last three decades. On few occasions, we have suffered badly, like the recent Pulwama attack. We not only tried to neutralise perpetrators of terror but also tried to find the ones behind them.

Our mature response is sometimes seen as a soft response. Imran Khan says, ‘give us the proof’. How do you counter this on the world stage — especially when criticism is coming the government's way for the manner in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the crown prince of Saudi Arabia after the joint statement between him and Pakistani PM, which talks about the politicisation of the UN listing regime, clearly pointing at India’s demand of getting JeM chief Masood Azhar under the 1267 of the sanctions committee.

It has two parts. One, you have many neighbours with whom you have ups and downs, but here is a neighbour whose sole aim is to cause damage to India irrespective of whether it benefits or harms them.

We are trying to deal with such a neighbour. Not just us, even the statements coming from Afghanistan or Iran in the last few days indicate the same. Iran clearly named Pakistan for the loss of their 27 revolutionary guards which are like our SPGs.

So, it is time for all countries to come together, and India to mobilise the world opinion and compel Pakistan to behave and we are doing just that. Secondly, India has a tradition of respecting visiting dignitaries, and the practice of visiting Pakistan while coming to India or vice versa has been a problem for a very long time. Saudi Arabia is one of our very important partners in counter-terrorism and has been helping us by sharing intelligence. We have strong trade relations with them. We should not look at crown prince's visit only in light of the joint statement. I am sure, our leadership will discuss the contents of the joint statement as well.

The Congress has asked why PM Modi breached the protocol and embraced Saudi crown prince when he has just given out a $20 billion bail out to Pakistan and also issued a joint statement.

The two countries have had very close ties, so much so that at one point it was said that Pakistan’s army is running on money given by the Saudis. Our relations with Saudi are growing stronger day by day. We have a policy of de-hyphenation. We do not see our relations with one country through the prism of any other country. We have relations with both USA and Russia, and at the same time, we share cordial relations with Israel and Palestine. This is the government’s policy. It's known that the Saudi crown prince doesn’t travel much and when he comes to India, it shows he has a special place for India in his heart. So our PM reciprocated the gesture in an appropriate manner.

Should we expect India to demand Saudi Arabia to close their door on terrorists like Masood Azhar, Hafeez Saeed, Dawood Ibrahim or ask it to recognise the Jaish and Lashkar as terrorist organisations and their leaders as terrorists and that they are not welcome on the Saudi soil? Is this a fair demand to make?

What all issues are there on the table we will come to know once the crown prince is here, but as far as I understand there was a statement from both the leaders about countering terrorism. Our relation with Saudi is a developing one and PM Modi has invested heavily in it. Saudi is a balancing factor in the Middle East. We require major support from countries in the Arab region for our fight against terror. Also, the resources in the Middle East are huge, which is why, we have to strengthen the bilateral ties.

You were very closely involved in Kashmir and also in the BJP-PDP government. Has this government been able to stem the alienation narrative?

There is no particular yardstick to measure that except the level of unrest in the Valley today. If you observe closely, most incidents are confined to two or three districts of South Kashmir, especially after Burhan Wani’s killing when something or the other happened on a daily basis. I’m not saying nothing is happening, but apart from a few places, rest of the state is completely peaceful and there are no takers for the ‘bandh calls’ given by separatists. There are people who are sheltering terrorists infiltrating from across the border. We have a zero tolerance policy towards terror and no differentiation is made between a local terrorist and an infiltrator.

A 19-year-old turned into a fidayeen in Pulwama attack. So has the integration narrative failed?

Large parts of the Valley are not siding with the terrorists, but a section of the population is getting indoctrinated or misguided. Children in the age group of 11-12 are turning stone-pelters. Are we to think that they are completely against India? How mature are you at such a young age? There has to be someone who is indoctrinating them. For example, drug addicts are easy targets for organisations such as Jaish. Our aim is to control the larger narrative in the Valley.

There are suggestions that are coming up, either abrogate Article 370, Article 35 or integrate Jammu & Kashmir fully into India. Where do you stand on it?

Article 370 should go but it need not be a knee-jerk reaction. Article 370 is one of the major reasons for alienation. We should think about when and how to do it. Article 35A is before the Supreme Court where the state subjects are already defined. Once the judgment comes we can think about what needs to be done with the remaining Article 370.

There are people, including Meghalaya governor Tathagata Roy, who are saying let’s boycott Kashmir and dry out the tourism.

This is precisely what Pakistan and the separatists want, that is, to isolate Kashmir. You will be walking into their trap if you pay heed to it. Kashmir is an integral part of India. When I say Kashmir, I mean each and every Kashmiri. It is our duty to bring even those brainwashed into the mainstream.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is blamed for harbouring anti-Muslim and anti-Kashmir sentiments. Where do you stand on that?

During the years that we were in power in Kashmir, the narrative which separatists pushed was that RSS was controlling the state government. Our effort should be to put an end to terrorism but also to give jobs and development to peace-loving, normal Kashmiris. What about Jammu? What about Ladakh? In Jammu everybody, irrespective of their religion, stand with India but they are also suffering because of the flawed narrative.

We are not playing bilateral cricket series with Pakistan. Now suggestions are coming to not play the multilateral series as well. Should India forfeit its World Cup match in June and snap all sporting ties with Pakistan?

Let the respective sporting bodies decide about that and consult with the government. It is Pakistan that needs to be isolated and they should feel guilty and for that if any sporting body decides to snap ties, let’s welcome it.

If the BCCI decides to forfeit the World Cup match slated to be held with Pakistan and later India loses the World Cup due to that specific match, will you still back the move?

Let the cricket board take a call on that. It’s an individual body. If they take any such decision, a large part of the public will welcome it.

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