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NEW DELHI: Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday that a referendum must be conducted in Pakistan to check whether its citizens wanted to remain there or wanted to merge with India.

According to reports from Haridwar, where he addressed an election rally, Mr Singh also said that Kashmir was always with India and would remain a part of it.

“Now Pakistan wants referendum on Kashmir but one thing is clear that Kashmir was with India and will be with India and no power can change that. There should instead be a referendum in Pakistan, asking whether its people want to remain in the same country or want to merge with India,” he said.

Mr Singh blamed Pakistan for the worsening of relations. “I want to tell this to Pakistan that India always wants to establish peaceful relations but it is only Islamabad which has tried to disrupt the relationship. They need to stop these terrorists and those who are asking for referendum on Kashmir.

“We want peaceful relations with Pakistan but time and again Pakistan is responsible for notorious activities,” he added.

Mr Singh said the world no longer regarded India as a soft nation. “Through surgical strikes, we have shown the world that even we can take strong action. India is a peace loving country but it is no longer a soft nation,” he added.

Mr Singh also warned the countries “conspiring” against India and said: “If somebody touches us then we will not spare them.”

Published in Dawn February 6th, 2017