New Delhi/Islamabad: Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan was Tuesday at the centre of the latest round of sparring between two often uneasy neighbours with Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik's comment that India should provide the actor security prompting a sharp rebuke from New Delhi that Islamabad should mind its own minorities.
Malik said in Islamabad that the Indian government should provide security to Shah Rukh, in the thick of a controversy over his remarks on being a Muslim that led to Jamaat-ud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed saying the star could move to Pakistan.
Addressing reporters in Islamabad at a reception hosted by the Indian High Commissioner, Malik added that people of both Pakistan and India love Shah Rukh, reported Geo TV Tuesday.
"He (Shah Rukh) is born Indian and he would like to remain Indian, but I will request the Indian government (to) please provide him security," Malik said.
India was quick to react.
Soon after Malik's remarks were reported in the media, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari and Home Secretary R.K. Singh said Pakistan should worry about the state of affairs in its own country.
Both Tewari and R.K. Singh spoke in near identical terms to decry Malik's statement.
"Instead of introspection on how minorities in India are being treated, he (Malik) should contemplate how he can improve the condition of minorities in his country," Tewari told reporters.
He said it would be better for Pakistan if Malik paid attention to domestic matters of his own country rather than worrying about such things.
"The test of democracy is the way you treat your minorities rather than the majority. The UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government has strived to see every citizen in the same light and given equal rights under the constitution," he said.
The home secretary spoke out too.
"We are quite capable of looking after security of our own citizens... let him (Malik) worry about security of his own," he said.
The Congress party slammed Malik's remarks.
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said Malik should first take care of his own country's artistes and nationals.
"What to speak about security, they (Pakistan) even refused to allow ghazal singer Mehdi Hasan to come to India for treatment," Alvi told reporters.
He also said that Shah Rukh Khan does not need special security.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too hit out, saying that they don't need Malik's advice.
"Indians in India are more safe and secure than the Pakistanis in Pakistan. We don't need Mr Malik's advice," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
"If Indians feel insecure than it is from Mr Malik's ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed. Let him first take care of them first," he added.
Shah Rukh, one of Bollywood's more articulate personalities, had written in Outlook Turning Points magazine, published in association with The New York Times: "I sometimes become the inadvertent object of political leaders who choose to make me a symbol of all that they think is wrong and unpatriotic about Muslims in India."
"There have been occasions when I have been accused of bearing allegiance to our neighbouring nation rather than my own country - this even though I am an Indian, whose father fought for the freedom of India. Rallies have been held where leaders have exhorted me to leave and return to what they refer to my original homeland," added the 47-year-old star.
He went on say that he became so sick of being mistaken for some crazed terrorist, "who co-incidentally carries the same name as mine that I made a film subtly titled 'My Name Is Khan' (and I am not a terrorist) to prove a point".
"Ironically, I was interrogated at the airport for hours about my last name when I was going to promote the film in America for the first time," he said.