Foreign Minister S Jaishankar called India’s relationship with Pakistan “difficult” in an interview to French daily Le Monde this week. He said Pakistan openly practices terrorism against India and if Islamabad is serious about establishing better relations with India it must hand over wanted criminals and terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Saeed living in Pakistan.

During the interview, Jaishankar said, “The relationship is difficult since many years, mainly because Pakistan has developed an important terrorist industry and sends terrorists to India to carry out attacks. Pakistan itself does not deny this situation.”

On question of his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi saying that relationship with India is “close to zero”, he countered, “Now, tell me: which country would be willing to talk and negotiate with a neighbour who openly practices terrorism against it. We need actions that demonstrate a real willingness to cooperate.”

He further asserted, “For example, there are people wanted for terrorist activities living in Pakistan. We are telling Pakistan: hand them over to us.”
Dawood Ibrahim, a Mumbai resident, is wanted for murder, extortion, targeted killing, drug trafficking, terrorism and various other cases. His name figured in the United Nations Security Council’s updated list of terrorists and militant groups in 2018.

Earlier, in September Hafiz Saeed, was declared a terrorist under newly amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He is the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. The United Nations too approved of the move. The UN earlier designated Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist.

The Foreign Minister Jaishankar was in Paris to attend a Peace Forum. Canada and New Zealand were the other attendees.

Jaishankar also talked about the current Kashmir situation. He said the “reforms” (Abrogation of Article 370) in Kashmir needed some restrictions so that separatist forces do not react violently. He said,“These restrictions have been gradually reduced, and as the situation normalises, telephone and mobile lines have been restored, shops are open and apple harvest is under way. The situation is back to normal.”

He also said that foreign journalists too can come to Kashmir as soon as the situation is safe.

The minister was also questioned on India-China relations, to which he said both nations were “great and it is in our common interest to have good relationships”.

Jaishankar also downplayed tensions between religious minorities in India. “There are few places in the world where you will see so many people with so many beliefs co-existing,” he said.

“It is my country that defines my nationality, not my religion, nor my caste, nor my language”, he added.