Amidst peace overtures from Islamabad, army chief General Bipin Rawat said Friday Pakistan cannot stay together with India as long as it is an Islamic state and if they are willing to become secular, then there is an opportunity.
While Rawat has expressed concerns over cross-border terror emanating from Pakistan, this is probably for the first time, he has talked about religious character of the neighbouring country apparently responsible for strained Indo-Pak ties.
"If they (Pakistan) have to stay together with India, then they have to develop as a secular state," Gen Rawat told reporters on the sidelines of the Passing Out Parade of the 135th course at the National Defence Academy in Pune.
"See this staying together, staying separate, ispe Pakistan ko apni andruni halat dekhni hogi. Pakistan ne apne state ko Islamic state bana diya hai. Hum log secular state hai (Pakistan has to look at its internal situation. They are an Islamic state, we (India) are a secular state)," he said.
Gen Rawat said, "How can we stay together if you say I am an Islamic state and there is no role for anybody else," he said. "If they are willing to become secular like us, then they seem to have an opportunity. Pehle dekhe, karte hai ki nahi karte (Let us see if they do so or not)."
Rawat's comments come amidst Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's efforts to resume dialogue with India.
During a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday, Khan said he was "ready" to hold talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and for the first time admitted that it was not in the interest of his country to allow its territories to be used for terror activities in other countries.
India has always maintained that Pakistan-sponsor terrorism was its "core concern" and unless Islamabad takes action to stop it, the dialogue process cannot be resumed.
Asked about Khan's statement that Islamabad would move two steps forward if New Delhi took one step, Rawat said the neighbouring nation should first take steps to stop terror activities.
"I would like to tell Pakistan to initiate that first step (of ending terror emanating from its soil). In the past, India has taken several steps. When we say terror is being harboured in your country, show some action by curtailing terror activities which are used against India," Rawat said.
On Khan's contention that why India and Pakistan could not be friends when Germany and France could be good neighbours, he said the neighbouring nation first needs to see its internal condition.
He also said the Indian Army was not yet ready to have women in combat roles.
"We are not yet ready for that (women in combat roles) as facilities have to be created within... Women also need to be prepared for that kind of hardships," he said.
"It is not easy. Let us not compare ourselves with Western nations, which are more open," Gen Rawat said.
There were plans to have women as interpreters, the army chief said. "Yes, we may be more open in our big cities, but our Army personnel are not coming from big cities only. They are coming from rural areas too, where the intermingling, which is expected, is still not there," he said.