'Our war is on terrorism, not Pakistan'

Print edition : January 19, 2002
Interview with Jana Krishnamurthi.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has been advocating a proactive approach in matters concerning relations with Pakistan, particularly after the terrorist strikes at the Parliament complex on December 13. Some BJP functionaries had even demanded that the Indian forces should cross the Line of Control (LoC) to strike at the training camps of militants in Pakistan. However, pressure from the United States and the rest of the world forced the ruling party to tone down its hawkish sentiments, and endorse the government's coercive diplomatic measures against Pakistan. In this interview with V. Venkatesan, BJP president Jana Krishnamurthi explains the reasons for this subtle shift in the party's stance.

The government appears to be caught between the pursuit of military and diplomatic measures while evolving an effective response to Pakistan in the wake of December 13. Does the BJP now consider a military offensive against Pakistan to be a realistic option?

-SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY

The Government is fully determined to root out terrorism. India is seeking the cooperation of all other nations in this regard. After September 11, India was the first country to support the war against terrorism. Other countries then followed suit. All countries need to work together in waging a battle against terrorism. Terrorism cannot be compartmentalised. The only difference between September 11 and December 13 is that in the former they (the terrorists) could succeed, while in the latter, they could not. With all the technological advancement in surveillance and security, the U.S. could not defend itself on September 11. Fortunately, in India, the security personnel could thwart the terrorists' attempt. Otherwise, the objective, the attempt, the purpose, are one and the same between September 11 and December 13. It is, therefore, natural that our country approached all other countries to join hands in the fight against terrorism.

It is a well-established fact that terrorism in India emanated from the soil of Pakistan. Even today, there are terrorist outfits operating from Pakistan, aided, abetted and assisted by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which is an official outfit of the Pakistan government. That is why our government called on the Government of Pakistan to see that all these terrorist outfits are banned and its leaders arrested. The Indian government has furnished evidence to the Pakistan government that the terrorists are all Pakistani nationals, and also members of terrorist outfits operating from Pakistan. It has called upon Pakistan to take immediate action, and gave a list of terrorists in Pakistan who should be handed over to India. Not only are they responsible for the December 13 attack, but some of them were wanted even earlier for the IC-814 hijack to Kandahar. Unfortunately, in spite of the pressure, the Pakistan government is trying to aggravate the situation by advancing the spurious argument that those who are operating from Kashmir are freedom fighters and not terrorists.

But the Government or the nation does not want to wage a battle against Pakistan and defeat Pakistan in that sense. But the whole set-up in Pakistan seems to be itching for some armed confrontation with India. And India naturally has to take steps to defend itself. When crack divisions of the Pakistan Army were brought near the border, and even guided missiles were deployed along the border, naturally the defence authorities of India have taken precautionary steps to move troops nearer to the border so as to face any contingency that may arise. But even today our Government believes in bringing pressure on Pakistan, through diplomatic channels. India would not like to declare war on Pakistan. Terrorists have already declared a war on human society by their actions of September 11 and December 13. So, India has declared a war on terrorism by responding to that.

Is a dialogue with Pakistan feasible in the near future?

Not until Pakistan takes steps to prove its bona fides, and shows that it is against terrorists. So far it has not done it.

Pakistan claims that India has not provided sufficient evidence regarding terrorists against whom it wants action taken in Pakistan.

What was the evidence that the U.S. had against Osama bin Laden? What was the evidence that the U.S. had against the Taliban forces? Did Pakistan question the U.S.? But in our case Pakistan is only trying to evade the issue.

How do you assess the outcome of the diplomatic initiative taken by other countries, notably the U.S. and the United Kingdom, to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan?

Nobody could predict the outcome of the present efforts to bring about normalcy in India-Pakistan relations. If Pakistan proves to be reasonable, the efforts undertaken so far will yield results. But Pakistan seems not to realise its responsibility. It still holds on to the same charges and stand that it has been adopting all these years. Still, we feel that international pressure is building up. Many foreign governments, including the U.S., the U.K. and Israel, are telling Pakistan in their own way that it should stop supporting terrorists. Having said this, India should not expect the U.S. to do battle for it. Ultimately, the battle is ours. Immediately after December 13, some of the statements from the U.S. government did not show that it realised the seriousness of the situation here. Thereafter, the U.S. stand changed considerably and it agreed with the Indian position. Public opinion in the U.S. is now veering around in India's favour. As a democratic country, the U.S. will continue to exert pressure on Pakistan to desist from supporting or sustaining terrorist outfits.

Will the pressure from the U.S. on Pakistan take the form of mediation in resolving the Kashmir issue?

India has never asked for any mediation from any country and we don't accept any mediation. Asking foreign governments to bring pressure on Pakistan to give up the path of terrorism, or support to terrorism, is not seeking mediation.

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