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Interview of External Affairs Minister Shri Jaswant Singh with the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)

January 08, 2002

EAM's Interview with the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)

MBC - Sir, welcome to this programme. We are pleased to have you with us.
EAM - I am glad to be with you.

MBC - First of all, let me start by asking you a question which is there in every Arab mind - how do you grade Indo-Arab relations?
EAM - They are watered by many centuries of closeness. Indo-Arab relations - I believe, are near unique, we are bound together by common historical experiences, cultural strands, so many words, from Arabic are part of my language. Our consciousness, faith, Islam, commerce, the interest that people of the Arab world have in India and the interest that India has in the Arab world. We are bound together and our past has been together, our future will be together. This is inevitable.

MBC - And in this context, because of the new developments in India-Israel relations, there is much speculation that this could be at the cost of Indo-Arab relations.
EAM - Not in the slightest. You must appreciate that India normalised relations with Israel, very many years after prominent Arab countries normalised relations with Israel. We were amongst the first, in fact, to grant recognition to Palestine. So, India normalised its relations with Israel only after the Arab countries had normalised. And this is certainly not at the cost of our very close relations with the Arab world.

MBC - Some reports in the media say that Mr. Shimon Peres when he visited India asked your country to change its position on the Palestinian question. Do you think there will be change in the Indian position?
EAM - No, no. Firstly, he met me and he did not ask. He met me. He is after all the Foreign Minister of a country. Its my duty and obligation, to meet him and accord to him full hospitality which I did. And he was here to attend a meeting of the Confederation of the Indian Industries (CII) where he has gone to. He did not ask me for this. We are committed to our position, we are firm in our belief that there must be a Palestine within internationally recognised boundaries. This is their birthright. There must be peace, of course, to peace there is no alternative. And there must be a formula of land for peace, UN Security Council Resolution 242, 338, also, the Mission Plan, they must be implemented and there must be resumption of talks. You perhaps do not know that just before the arrival here of H.E. Shimon Peres, we sent a special emissary… Enid Connan had a very long meeting with Chairman Yasser Arafat. And I received a special message from Chairman Yaseer Arafat. I cannot go into the details of that message. But we are very much in touch on important developments there.

MBC - Now we come back to the Indo-Pakistan relations and the tension in South Asia. We believe that besides Kashmir you have lots of other complicated issues which from your point of view are equally important to the settlement of this problem between India and Pakistan. What are India's perspectives on peace and security in South Asia?
EAM - I don't know what you mean by various other aspects. There must be one recognition here … amongst other aspects. India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are born of the same womb. We are children of the same mother subscribing to different faiths. There are more citizens of India that subscribe to Islam than there are Muslims in Pakistan or in Bangladesh. So, it would be wrong to differentiate between these countries on those accounts. With Pakistan, India has always sought amicable and peaceful relations. I don't want to go into all those but after all you know very well with Prime Minister Vajpayee, we undertook Lahore, Lahore was answered by Kargil and plane hijack to Kandhar. Despite that and the killings in Jammu & Kashmir, we went forward and invited President Musharraf to Agra. It was at our invitation that he came. That was answered by the attack on the State Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir on 1st of October and the attack on the Indian Parliament on 13th of December. Pakistan must give up the path of terrorism. It is not possible that Pakistan accedes to every request that is made by Western countries and if the Western countries say do this for Taliban, against Taliban, do that against Al Qaeeda and then immediately Pakistan does it and if an Asian country, a neighbour is to say, please abandon the path of terrorism so that we can resolve our issues, then that becomes an unreasonable request. India is asking for the abandonment of the path of terrorism by Pakistan. It cannot have an approach to terrorism which is of one kind when it comes to western countries and their interests and Afghanistan and altogether a different kind, when it comes to Asian countries and India and its own domestic backyard. That is my point.

MBC - Is it the 11th of September attack on the United States that has made the General understand the importance of cracking down on extremism, religious extremism in his own country? There is also the view that the attack on the 13th of December have derailed the General's motives. what do you think the General is lacking in?
EAM - No, I don't want to charge him with lacking in anything. The General, I am sure, wishes to do what he says he wants to do. All that India has said is that there must be a clear statement of intent, clearly Pakistan must announce its policy and say we will not promote cross-border terrorism against India from the soil of Pakistan or from any other part of Pakistan which is controlled by Pakistan, we will not promote cross border terrorism. Let it be said clearly. Let it also be then thereafter demonstrated on the ground. And we have also given our neighbour a list of 20 wanted criminals. They are terrorists, they are Indian citizens, they are wanted criminals, they are wanted for acts of terrorism, for trade in narcotics, smuggling of narcotics, gold, all kinds of criminal activities, hijacking of aeroplanes. Why should Pakistan be interested in harbouring criminals? These are amongst the things that we have said. And if this is done, then there is no difficulty, because the Prime Minister had said that for every step that Pakistan takes, we will take two steps forward. But let there be a proper climate created for it and to create the proper climate, these are amongst the things that we say. Let our good neighbour, please do this.

MBC - Sir, how far India can go because people say, here, they are pushed to the edge and this is a new policy by India?
EAM - This is not a new policy, my dear friend. What will a country do? When it comes to patience, you have lived in India long enough. It is one country that can receive many wounds at the same time and bleed from many wounds at the same time and yet have the greatest of patience. It is no new policy but for even the most patient of people, there is a limit. And by attacking the heart of democracy, of India, a threshold has been crossed. We are not seeking any revenge. We seek no retribution and we do not seek to humiliate anybody. But we do want that there be a recognition of the great wrong that has been done to India and the people of India.

MBC - (First part of the question inaudible) what we media is rejecting now, its the Kashmir issue again comes to the fore while you talk of terrorism, cross-border terrorism they talk of Kashmir as the core issue. So how do we see a kind of understanding between the two countries back again without the interference of a third party which your country object?
EAM - It is Jammu & Kashmir.

MBC - Yes, that is what I mean, the State of Jammu & Kashmir.
EAM - No, there is no freedom fight that is going on. Because of some misguided elements, misguided from abroad and supported from abroad, if some elements within the Valley of Srinagar or Jhelum caused disturbance and wish to confer upon them some kind of a freedom movement, it would be a great error. How can you have a freedom movement for a small valley, which is only 74 miles x 26 miles, please be realistic about such issues and don't use words which do not apply to the reality on the ground.

MBC - We have been in Ladakh, we have been in Jammu, we have been in Kashmir and the Srinagar Valley, we have seen the atmosphere there, people want peace, end of the militancy there but the rise in tension now is making them more worried. They don't leave their houses, they fear getting killed by a suicidal bomb, they fear they may not come back alive, how do you see this?
EAM - I agree with you that this must be resolved and there is a resolution to it. I am convinced in my mind that if encouragement to cross border activity of terrorists and cross-border terrorism is stopped by Pakistan, I have no doubt in my mind that the peace-loving people of Jammu & Kashmir, whether they are of Jammu or Srinagar valley or Ladakh, peace will return to that land within 15 days. It is such a land, I know it, you know it.

MBC - On nuclear issues - I don't want to talk much about it. It has already been talked of by the western media. Our concern here is: India has said no first use of nuclear weapons while Pakistan has said: no first war. Can you put it in a way that we know that there is no war between the two countries?
EAM - It is our endeavour. My job as Foreign Minister of the country is not to promote conflict, it is to prevent conflict. Please understand. But I can't prevent conflict if the other side keeps on instigating conflict. Please also recognise that the attack on Parliament took place on 13th of December. We have exercised the greatest possible restraint for almost a month in the hope that Pakistan would even now move in the right direction.

MBC - Let us come back to the UN Resolution 1373 which was supported by the US after the 11th of September, how do you see this India's case and its application in the current situation?
EAM - I think there is one aspect of the role of 1373 as a Resolution against terrorism. Its Chapter VII Resolution which makes it mandatory on countries. It's a Resolution which has been subscribed to by almost every country on earth. Pakistan too is signatory. There is an aspect of it which prohibits countries, of course, from financially aiding, either actively or passively supporting terrorism. This is almost the exact phraseology of the 1373 Resolution. We should work on that basis. Neither active nor passive support to terrorism. If Pakistan were to adhere to it, the problems would be over.

MBC - Sir, but here it comes - I raised this question with the Pakistanis also, and I got an answer saying that India supports the United Nations Resolutions but when it comes to Kashmir, they reject the Resolution of the UN, saying that its a bilateral issue.
EAM - No, it is again a misreading of the reality, and a misreading of history. The first UN Security Council Resolution on Jammu & Kashmir was on the initiative of India. It was not as if Pakistan took the issue to the United Nations. We took the issue because Pakistan was then the aggressor, even then in 1948, Pakistan was the aggressor. We took the issue to the United Nations, to the Security Council. The Security Council said Pakistani troops must withdraw from the whole of Jammu & Kashmir, which includes the part of Pak-occupied Kashmir, on which they are sitting. They must withdraw from this. There were a number of Indian troops that were permitted to remain there for administrative purposes. Then all things will follow. Pakistan never abided by that. Thereafter, even if Pakistan did not abide, we continued to have elections, elected governments. You can say, they were not perfect elections but we are saying they were as perfect as anywhere else in India, much better than no elections in our neighbourhood. We did our best. After that, of course, over 50 years have gone by. Then in Shimla Agreement, we came back to it and said we will resolve this issue bilaterally. You cannot have Security Council Resolutions because Gunnar Jarring and other reports have said those Resolutions are no longer enforceable. The latest, of course, was the Secretary General himself when he came last year on a visit to this region, he was asked this question and he said these are not enforceable Resolutions any more. I am sorry that I have had taken time to explain this background.

MBC - It is very important for our viewers because we hear from the other side but we don't know your viewpoint.
EAM - But this is the reality. I know, but this is the reality. India has never shied away from abiding by any international commitment. This UN Security Council Resolution is no longer enforceable. This is the view of the UN Secretary General himself and he has said it just last year. Now I am not citing these given the historical background in which it stipulates. And then there is the Shimla Agreement which enjoins upon both countries to abjure violence, to not indulge in hostile propaganda against each other and without prejudice to the respective positions of either country, to attempt to resolve differences on the State of Jammu and Kashmir. It was out of Shimla Agreement that the Line of Control got evolved. The Line of Control is not an arbitrary line, it is a signed document. Every map sheet has been signed by representatives of the Government of Pakistan, then Government of Pakistan and the Government of India. It is a treaty document.

MBC - So, if the General now comes and says OK, I agree that these are extremist groups, I will ban them, if he takes action on the list presented by India, could that be enough for you to go to the table?
EAM - You know, my friend, it would be better if I did not engage in hypothetical replies. My Prime Minister has said clearly, I have said clearly what we expect. A conducive climate has to be created and if a conducive climate is created, if Pakistan makes such a clear statement about abandoning terrorism, about its taking suitable action on the ground in that regard and what we had said about banning Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, their accounts, leaders – some of those actions have been taken and these 20 terrorists. My Prime Minister has said clearly for every one step that Pakistan takes, you can be assured India will take two steps for peace.

MBC - So you are more optimistic that there could be peace in this region because this is of major concern now. You feel because you are the largest democracy in the world, democracy and religious extremism do not go together. Military, militancy and military rule do not have a place in a democracy yet you have faith in your neighbours, where there have been more military than civilian regimes.
EAM - Look, you must understand. Historically, my friend, firstly, democracy and terrorism will not go together. Secondly, development and terrorism cannot go together. A country can either choose terrorism or it can choose development. Thirdly, you cannot have technological progress and terrorism simultaneously. Fourthly, technological progress is born of freedom - freedom of mind, freedom of thought, freedom of democracy. The path that Pakistan has chosen is the very reverse of all this. They are the same people, they are my brethren. We are the same stock. Why is India demonstrating technological advancement? Because there is freedom here – freedom of education, freedom of expression, men women and children are able to do what they wish to do in educating themselves. Pakistan chose a path of obscurantism. Give up that path. Move on the path of peace and progress. That is the responsibility of every Foreign Minister.

MBC - You are more comfortable talking to Bhutto and the civilian elected government than with Generals, how do you view that?
EAM - No, I deal with whichever government is the government of the day. It is for the country to decide what government they have chosen for themselves, not for me to decide. I deal with what is served to me.

MBC - Sir, I will come back to Afghanistan issue because it seems that India is playing a major role in the rebuilding and reconstruction of Afghanistan. How do you see India's position in that?
EAM - You must again, please, put it in the historical perspective. You ask me about India's relations with the Arab world. I don't start the calendar from today. The calendar is not of my making. These relationships, interconnections with Afghanistan are not of today's making and in historical terms, if you really look at the sweep of history, whether it is the Arabian lands and India or India and Afghanistan, what is 20 years or 30 years? It is just the twinkling of an eye and it is only for the last 20 years that there was an interruption. We are, therefore, not making any big play. We are only doing that which is India's role to do towards a neighbour. The neighbour is at some difficult times, India is playing its role to help that neighbour stand up on its feet again.

MBC - Thank you very much, Sir.

 

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