Talks with Pakistan can’t take place in ‘shadow of violence and under spray of bullets’: VK Singh

New Delhi: Asserting that talks and terror cannot go together, India today said the message it sent to Pakistan through the ‘surgical strike’ has been heard across the world and there was “clear unanimity” that sponsorship of terrorism is as heinous as the menace itself.

The government also said its intention of having peaceful ties with Pakistan has not changed but insisted that talks cannot take place in the “shadow of violence and under spray of bullets”, and the message it conveyed through the surgical strike was that India will not accept continued terrorism as the “new normal”. “The aim of the surgical strikes that we conducted was to convey to Pakistan that we will not countenance continued terrorism as the new normal in our relationship. Our own good faith has been amply demonstrated time and again through repeated initiatives to normalize the relationship. However, as we have often stated, talks and terror cannot go together,” Minister of State for External Affairs Gen (Retd.) VK Singh said.

He was addressing a joint press conference with his ministerial colleague M J Akbar where they listed MEA’s achievements in the last two-and-half years. “All the countries of the region, barring one, have demonstrated their willingness to stand together against the menace of terrorism that could undermine their collective hopes. India too, has shown that we will not back down in the face of assaults against the security of our people, the prosperity of the region and interests of the international community. “Our position on terror has been widely accepted by the world. In the coming year, the world will be even stronger in its condemnation of the evil,” he said.

On Russia’s growing proximity with Pakistan, he said Russia has been an all-weather friend of New Delhi and that it is confident that Moscow will not do anything which will have an adverse bearing on India’s security.

Replying to a barrage of questions on Indo-Pak ties, Akbar said India’s strong position on terror was a major highlight of 2016 and there was consensus worldwide that terrorism in all forms is unacceptable and that the sponsorship of terror is as heinous as terror itself. “As far as the surgical strike is concerned, that message was again heard across the world. There was clear unanimity that terrorism was not acceptable,” he said adding the UN, various mulitlateral bodies and individual countries supported the message on terror enunciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Asked about demands by a section that India should discontinue diplomatic engagement with Pakistan in view of its support to terrorism, Akbar said the bilateral engagement needs to continue. “As Atal Bihari Vajpayee famously said we cannot change our neighbours. We have to deal with them with eyes open. We do not deal with them with minds closed. And in that respect talk of inflammation does not necessarily help. We hope that Pakistan will see the path of reason. Hope Pakistan’s friends will persuade it to see the path of reason. Let there be peace then there will be dialogue,” said Akbar.

Akbar said the government wanted the best of peaceful and good neighbourly relationship with Pakistan but terror disrupted the process of peace. “The intention has not changed. You cannot have a peaceful conversation in the shadow of violence and under spray of bullets. “Terrorism is not conducive to conversation. Talks and terror cannot go together.”On Russia, Pakistan, China axis in Afghanistan,” Singh said there should not be any concern as Afghan people will measure friendship as per ground realities. “We do not believe that holding meeting on Afghanistan alone is going to solve any problem. Eventually it is about delivering benefits on the ground.

“India’s own development record is well known and speaks for itself. Our relationship is so close,” said Singh. He said any political settlement in Afghanistan will have to be “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.” “We believe it is for government of Afghanistan to decide who it wants to engage and how does it want to engage on what terms,” he said.

Referring to government’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, Singh said the Prime Minister has travelled to almost all the countries in the region, while the External Affairs Minister made journeys to them.

He also talked about the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh, construction of the new Parliament building in Kabul by India and the India-Afghanistan Friendship Dam, housing projects in Jaffna, power projects in Bhutan and work on the trilateral highway and the Kaladan Multimodal Project with Myanmar.