Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday said Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s claim that there is a better chance of talks with India if the BJP returns to power in the Lok Sabha elections could be a Congress ploy.
“Such statements come around elections in India and also there have been eminent Congress leaders who’ve gone there to seek help to oust Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” she told ANI during an interview. “I wonder whether this is also a part of the scheme of things which have been put by Congress. I don’t know what to make of this honestly.”
On April 10, Khan had told journalists in an interview that the Congress, if it comes to power, might be too scared to seek a settlement with Pakistan over Kashmir due to fears of a backlash from the right-wing. “Perhaps if the BJP, a right-wing party, wins, some kind of settlement in Kashmir could be reached,” he had said.
Sitharaman also advised politicians to “apply their mind before making sexist remarks” after Samajwadi Party Azam Khan’s controversial comments allegedly against Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Jaya Prada. Sitharaman stressed on the need to “draw a line” with political criticism.
The defence minister said that public figures in particular need to be cautious of what they say. “It is always easy to hit at a woman when you talk about other things which do not become part of the conversation or which are not germane to the discussion,” Sitharaman said. “You easily pick up on things which are very personal or are gender specific and not called for at all. I find that coming very easily without a thought.”
Sitharaman said her advice was extended to leaders from all parties. “We have to draw a line,” she said. “Irrespective of the party line, I think we have all learnt from good public discourse. It should be in the back of our minds what we talk about in politics as that is the legacy we leave behind for the next generation and we have a responsibility towards it.”
The Election Commission had banned Khan banned from campaigning for 72 hours, starting Tuesday, after he reportedly said at a rally in Rampur that the colour of “the current Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate’s” underwear is khaki. BJP leader Jaya Prada is the party’s nominee for Rampur.
When asked if the Supreme Court’s decision to look into the allegedly stolen documents in the Rafale case weakened the government’s position, she said, “I don’t think our position has become weaker. We are firm on our stand. The Attorney General gave an explanation the next day. Documents from the Defence Ministry are classified jet deal documents. Every time a document of this nature or even a page comes out, in my understanding, it is stealing of information. The ministry is looking into the matter as to how it came out.”
Sitharaman said that Islamabad was making a mockery of itself by taking selected journalists to a madarsa that was not even touched by the Indian Air Force on February 26. “It is for Pakistan to show they have not been hit and that a number of people were not killed,” she said. “They took 40 days to take a small group of journalists and defence attaches and limited that picnic they had of these people only to the madrasa. I am telling you the madrasa was at the lower end of the foothill and behind the madrasa inside the dense forest was the training camp. So Pakistan is making a mockery of itself.”