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Rajnath Singh exclusively talks to CNBC TV18 on internal security and terrorism

UNION Home Minister Rajnath Singh today met with Network18 Group Editor-in-Chief Rahul Joshi for an exclusive interview on internal security, threats posed by Pakistan-based terror groups, new US President Donald Trump, and the impending assembly elections including in his home state Uttar Pradesh.
 
 

In a significant statement that is bound to elicit strong reactions from the Pakistani establishment, Rajnath Singh said India cannot rule out more surgical strikes in Pakistan-controlled territory, delivering an uncharacteristically strong warning to Islamabad four months after Indian commandos carried out widespread and deep cross-border raids in response to a terrorist attack on a military base in Kashmir last September.

 

“Pakistan is our neighbour. If it changes for good, we may not need such a step again. But if terror organizations or others target India, we can’t guarantee that surgical strike will not be repeated,” Singh told Network18 in the hour-long exclusive interview, his first to any media outlet since the surgical strikes. Singh, effectively the No.2 in the government, also said the recent “house arrest” of Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed was an eyewash, and that if Islamabad is really serious about tackling terror, it should pursue legal options, charge him and put him behind bars.

 

He also said nabbing fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, who is said to be hiding in Pakistan, was just a matter of time. “I am confident that we will succeed in getting him back. It is just a matter of time,” the home minister said. While Singh took a hard-line towards Pakistan, he was more measured when it came to China. He refused to criticize it for repeatedly blocking the designation of another of India’s most wanted – Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar – as a terrorist at the United Nations. “Maybe China did not support us because of their own internal deliberations. But am hopeful they will support us in the future,” he said.
 
Interestingly, the home minister also refused to criticize the US decision to put a blanket ban on travelers from seven Islamic nations entering America, a decision that has triggered widespread opprobrium for President Donald Trump. Singh gave Trump a wide berth, saying he must have taken such a decision after “assessing local terror situation”.
 
Talking about his home state Uttar Pradesh that is holding assembly elections in two weeks’ time, Singh expressed faith that BJP will win over 250 of the 403 seats. He said the BSP and the SP-Congress alliance should decide who is the main opposition to BJP, and observed who the real opposition would varies from region to region. Singh, a former CM of the state, ruled himself out of the race to become the UP chief minister. “I am already the home minister, it would be injustice if others are not given a chance,” he said, noting that going ahead with the poll campaign without declaring a CM candidate would not affect his party’s chances.
 
With regard to the candidature of his son Pankaj Singh, Rajnath said his opinion was that a leader’s son should work at least 10 years in party before fighting elections. He pointed out that when AB Vajpayee had recommended Pankaj’s name to be a candidate in 2007, he had politely declined since Rajnath Singh was the BJP president then.
 
Catch India’s Union home minister at his candid best, tonight on CNBC-TV18 at 10 pm and CNBC Awaaz 10.30 pm. The full interview will be aired on all the ETV Hindi and Urdu channels at 9 pm tonight and on CNN-News18 and News18 India at 10 pm. The entire transcript of the interview will be available on news18.com.
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