Loose cannon

Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik’s ridiculous, even offensive remarks during his three-day visit to India have dealt bilateral relations a setback. Malik blamed Indian intelligence agencies for the 26/11 attacks.

They had failed to prevent the attacks, he said. He claimed Abu Jundal, who was in the control room in Karachi during the operation, was actually an Indian agent. Instead of outlining steps to bring to justice those who had tortured and killed Kargil war hero Captain Saurabh Kalia, Malik poured salt on wounds by attributing his death to harsh weather in the Himalayas. When Pakistan handed over Kalia’s body to India it was mutilated.

Malik’s statements are not just factually incorrect but deeply insensitive and irresponsible. Some in India have dismissed the remarks as the ranting of a court jester. They have suggested that instead of dignifying his comments with a response, India must ignore him. After all, Malik isn’t taken too seriously in his own country and is often the butt of much ridicule and contempt. 

However, Malik is Pakistan’s senior minister and he was here on an official visit. It appears that he used his visit to Delhi to impress his anti-Indian constituents at home. The Pakistan government owes India an explanation as to why its interior minister conducted himself like a loose cannon, firing indiscriminately and irresponsibly in all directions and abusing Indian hospitality. Malik’s string of intemperate remarks cannot be dismissed as impromptu observations. His behaviour will provide fodder to those Indians who are opposed to India-Pakistan dialogue to point out that Pakistan is not serious about improving relations with India. This is unfortunate since bilateral relations were looking up with the two sides agreeing to ease up their visa policies.

An embarrassed UPA government avoided issuing a joint statement at the end of Malik’s visit. Surely, his behaviour deserved a more robust ticking off. His absurd claims must not go unchallenged. Importantly, it needs to clarify to the Indian people why it green signalled Malik’s visit in the first place. It is well known that Pakistan’s interior ministry, which is responsible for bringing to justice Hafiz Saeed and others behind the 26/11 attacks, has done nothing in this regard. In the circumstances, there was no reason for India to allow Malik to visit this country. In facilitating his visit, the UPA government not only rewarded him for non-performance but provided him with opportunity to thumb his nose at Indians on Indian soil. 

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