Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Salman Bashir threw another provocation by terming the beheading of Indian Army soldier Lance Naik Hemraj as India’s domestic issue. In an exclusive interview, Bashir said it is “highly irresponsible” of India to use this “domestic” issue to derail ties with a nuclear armed neighbour. He also warned that Pakistan’s restraint should not be misunderstood as weakness.

He went on to suggest that some of the outrage against Pakistan was made up in India by fabrication.

“I think one can stir emotions. It’s easy to play with raw emotions, whether it’s beheading, whether it’s something else. You know the city (New Delhi) was paralysed for many days (reference to the Delhi gang rape protests). We’ve had a lot of activity and reaction in Pakistan. But it would be highly irresponsible for them to move from the parameters which are purely domestic, into areas which affect peace and stability between two nuclear weapon states,” said the Pakistan High Commissioner.

He criticised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s comment that “there cannot be business as usual with Pakistan” after the beheading of the Indian soldiers on the Line of Control. “It’s very unlike Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” said Bashir, while adding that Pakistan has always held him in high esteem. “He’s a man of peace, he’s a rational person and I believe our (Pakistani) leadership has also reciprocated,” Bashir added. But he quickly warned, “It’s very easy to get into the old ways (in Indo-Pak ties), it comes very instinctively.”

Bashir lashed out at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for using the word “barbaric” to describe the beheading of the Indian soldier. “To begin by saying that it’s the Pakistan Army or depicting Pakistan as a barbaric country is unacceptable,” he said.

Bashir described Army chief General Bikram Singh’s comments as “hawkish”: “One could have expected better from the Army Chief… I think the point he raised significantly was to up the national and international pressure on Pakistan. I really do not know why he would at least sound so hawkish against Pakistan. On the contrary, you would not have seen any irresponsible statement coming from Pakistan.”

He also accused the Indian Army of killing Pakistani soldiers in targeted sniper firing across the LoC post the 8 January flashpoint. “We could have also hyped up the casualties on our side which are more than the two that India is talking about, including the sniper fire by Indian forces, targeted shooting of Pakistani jawans. Please don’t misunderstand the restraint as weakness,” he said.

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