Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said no one else had advocated for a dialogue on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir as much as he did when he was the home minister. In an interview to the Hindustan Times, Singh claimed to have tried to include former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in the discussions and sent Opposition leaders to talk to separatists, but there was no response.

The defence minister said there should have been discussions on the matters that could have brought normalcy in Kashmir. “If they were ready for debate, why did not they come forward?” Singh asked. “Why was shut down happening in Kashmir every other day? We withdrew stone-pelting cases against 9,000 people.”

Singh said that by scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the Bharatiya Janata Party has proved that there was no difference between their words and deeds. “We have also addressed the challenge of crisis of credibility in politics,” he added.

He claimed there was “a great deal of normalcy” in Kashmir when compared with the past. “There is a big improvement,” he told Hindustan Times. He added that earlier terrorists used to violate human rights.

Singh said Assembly elections in the state can be discussed after the region turns into a Union Territory on October 31. He added that panchayat election had been held in Kashmir after several years, and the Block Development Council elections were underway. The local council elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held on October 24, and votes will be counted the same day.

The defence minister said there was no scope of any discussion with Pakistan after “the way it is behaving and is trying to infiltrate”.

Singh reiterated that all “illegal occupation” in Jammu and Kashmir must be vacated. “India has had a consistent stance on PoK, which is enshrined in the Parliamentary Resolution of 1994,” he said. “This resolution seeks the vacation of all parts of Jammu and Kashmir, which have been occupied illegally through aggression by Pakistan.

The defence minister admitted that there had been transgressions across the Line of Actual Control, but added that it was due to “differing perceptions of India and China” on LAC. “Both sides regularly convene border personnel meetings, flag meetings and engage in other confidence building measures on and off the border in order to promote peace and tranquillity,” he said.

Singh said the objective of the forces was self defence, and not to confront any country. “This has never been our character and will never be in future,” he said. The statement is a departure from what Singh had said about India’s nuclear policy. On August 16, he had said that India has always adhered to its “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons but “what happens in the future will depend on circumstances”.

Asked about unemployment, Singh said the charge that the government has failed to generate enough jobs was unfair. “Job opportunities have been created in India,” he claimed. “There is no doubt that India, too, is affected because of global economic slowdown, but our policies have ensured that consumer demand in India is not affected as much as in other parts of the world.”

Singh also spoke at length about the indigenisation of defence production. “We have taken a host of initiatives under the Make in India programme,” he said. “The domestic defence production has reached a staggering Rs 80,500 crore in 2018-19 from Rs 74,121 crore in 2016-17. The ministry is constantly refining its policies and procedures to facilitate greater participation of the Indian industry in arms production.”

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