Pakistan denounces provocative remarks by Indian defence minister over assassination campaign

Published April 6, 2024
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gestures during an interview with News18 on Friday.—Screenshot from News18 YouTube clip
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gestures during an interview with News18 on Friday.—Screenshot from News18 YouTube clip

Islamabad on Saturday denounced the “provocative” remarks made by Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in a televised interview yesterday, in which he appeared to confirm that New Delhi was carrying out an assassination campaign in Pakistan, as reported by The Guardian.

“If any terrorist from a neighbouring country tries to disturb India or carry out terrorist activities here, he will be given a fitting reply. If he escapes to Pakistan we will go to Pakistan and kill him there,” Singh said in an interview to Indian TV news network News18 on Friday.

Singh’s remarks followed The Guardian’s investigative report, published on Thursday, which said at least 20 individuals had been murdered in Pakistan since 2020 at the behest of Indian intelligence operatives. The report said it had seen evidence provided by Pakistani security agencies, and noted that Indian officers confirmed the new policy of assassinating enemies and dissidents on foreign soil. India’s Ministry of External Affairs had denied the allegations.

Singh said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made it clear this policy was “right” and that “India has the capability to do so. Pakistan has also started understanding this.”

Singh’s comments are the first time that India has acknowledged any assassinations by its operatives on foreign soil, The Guardian reported in a follow-up story published on Friday.

In October 2023, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had cited what he said was credible evidence of a potential link between Indian agents and the murder of a Sikh separatist leader. The following month, the US Department of Justice had said an Indian government official directed an unsuccessful plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist on US soil.

On January 25, Foreign Secretary Syrus Sajjad Qazi had said in a press conference that there was “credible evidence” of links between Indian agents and the assassination of two Pakistani nationals in Sialkot and Rawalakot.

In a Foreign Office (FO) statement issued today, Pakistan officially condemned what it described as “provocative remarks” made by the Indian defence minister.

The FO explained that in the foreign secretary’s presser on Jan 25, Pakistan had provided “irrefutable evidence” of India’s involvement in extrajudicial killings and transnational assassinations on Pakistani soil.

“India’s assertion of its preparedness to extra-judiciously execute more civilians, arbitrarily pronounced as ‘terrorists’, inside Pakistan constitutes a clear admission of culpability,” the FO said. “It is imperative for the international community to hold India accountable for its heinous and illegal actions.”

It added: “Pakistan stands resolute in its intent and ability to safeguard its sovereignty against any act of aggression, as demonstrated by its robust response to India’s reckless incursion in February 2019, which laid bare India’s hollow claims of military superiority.

The FO said that India’s ruling dispensation “habitually resort to hateful rhetoric to fuel hyper-nationalistic sentiments, unapologetically exploiting such discourse for electoral gains”, stressing that such “myopic and irresponsible behaviour” not only undermined regional peace but also impeded the prospects of constructive engagement in the long term.

India’s general elections are taking place this month, beginning April 19 and ending May 1.

“Pakistan has always demonstrated its commitment to peace in the region. However, our desire for peace should not be misconstrued. History attests to Pakistan’s firm resolve and ability to protect and defend itself,” it concluded.

Meanwhile, during a press conference in Lahore today, Information Minister Attaullah Tarar said that the international community should take notice of the extrajudicial killings by India in various countries.

“Pakistan is fully alert and capable of defending itself but we want peace in the region,” he said, adding that the desire for peace should not be taken for weakness.

A day ago, the FO had said that the Indian network of extrajudicial and extraterritorial killings was a “global phenomenon” that required a coordinated international response.

In the statement, the FO had said that India’s assassination of Pakistani nationals on Pakistani soil was a clear violation of the country’s sovereignty and a breach of the UN Charter.

“These cases exposed the increasing sophistication and brazenness of Indian-sponsored terrorist acts inside Pakistan, with striking similarities to the pattern observed in other countries, including Canada and the United States,” the FO said.

“It is critical to bring to justice the perpetrators, facilitators, financiers and sponsors of these extrajudicial and extraterritorial killings. India must be held accountable internationally for its blatant violation of international law,” the FO had said.

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