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Foreign Policy

"Court Martial"

Transcript of Televison Talk Show Court Martial broadcast on SAB TV  where the foreign secretary, recently in the news for his hard-hitting views on Indo-US relations spoke extensively on Indian foreign policy.

"Court Martial"

Transcript (courtesy, Ministry of External Affairs) of Televison Talk Show Broadcast on SAB TV  Channel on August 15 and 18,  2002 where foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal was interviewed by Karan Thapar, Mediaperson, C. Rajamohan, Strategic Affairs Editor, The Hindu, and Kanti Bajpai, Professor of International Relations, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Karan Thapar: Mr. Sibal, if I could take the first question, after the attack on a church in Islamabad, the two attacks in Karachi, and of course the most recent one in …, can you accept that General Musharraf does not have complete control over the Jehadi groups and, perhaps, he is not lying when he says, "I have done all I can to stop cross-border infiltration into India"?

Kanwal Sibal: There is a great difference between the terrorist attacks that are occurring in Pakistan and those that are occurring in Jammu and Kashmir. The attacks in Pakistan are obviously by those groups who are very dissatisfied with the cooperation that General Musharraf is giving to the Americans to combat against the Taliban and the Al Qaeda. But the attacks in Jammu and Kashmir are not directed against the cooperation that General Musharraf is extending to India.  So, there is a radical difference between the two situations.  

The attacks in Jammu and Kashmir are very closely connected with the Pakistan establishment.  Everybody knows that.  They are being directed from across the border.  The Jehadi groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir are financed, trained, and infiltrated across the Line of Control by Pakistan. So, we do not accept this logic that since there are terrorist attacks occurring in Pakistan, therefore General Musharraf and the Government of India face similar dangers from terrorist groups which are targeting both countries.  No.  The nature of the two instances of terrorism is altogether different.

C. Rajamohan: Mr. Foreign Secretary, stepping back a little and looking back at what India has done in the last six months, the military mobilization after the attack on the Parliament on December 13 and the so-called coercive diplomacy, I think it has brought a lot of interesting dividends.  But what we have seen in the last few weeks is that India is beginning to lose the upper hand or the control over the events. You end up now saying ‘negative, negative, negative’ to any suggestion that is coming from across.  So, it has become a strategy of ‘do nothing’. Don’t you think we need to inject some dynamism into the current position of saying ‘no talks, no engagement, till everything comes to an end’?

Kanwal Sibal: No, it is not that at all.  All that we are saying is that Pakistan must honour its own commitments, the public declarations made by General Musharraf in his various speeches, the messages that were communicated to us formally through the Americans about the commitments he took to end infiltration permanently.  All we are saying is that he must implement those. Once he implements those, we are willing to resume contacts and dialogue.  We have spelt out what is it that we expect.  

First of all, he must end infiltration permanently as he has been saying.  But I must, of course, underline that you cannot equate infiltration with terrorism.  There is no linear equation between the two.   In fact, you can permanently end infiltration and you can still have a lot of terrorism around.  Infiltration is simply one aspect, one means of conducting terrorist acts. So, what is important for ending infiltration permanently is to take control, in the sense, must prevent those who have already been infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir so that they do not engage in violence, and also start dismantling permanently the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan, which will include training camps, which will include communication networks, which will include funding and which would also include taking action against all the institutions which are the spawning grounds of all these Jehadis.

C. Rajamohan: He is saying that he had done what he could and we say he has not done enough.  Why can’t we have technical talks, talks at the level of military to sit down and say ‘look how do you actually make sure what he is saying is …

Kanwal Sibal: He is saying that there is nothing happening on the Line of Control.  Why is he saying that?  Because, others are saying, including the Americans, that this is not quite true.  Even when Colin Powell was in Islamabad recently, he did not quite buy the assertion that was made that nothing is happening on the Line of Control. Incidentally, if he says nothing is happening on the Line of Control, he is fully in control of what is happening there.  We cannot have it both ways that I can guarantee you nothing is happening and at the same time if something is happening, it is outside my control.  So, there is a certain lack of consistency in this position that he is taking.

Kanti Bajpai: Mr. Foreign Secretary, to just shift the needle a little bit, given that India and Pakistan are not talking, it seems that we are increasingly relying on the United States and others to intercede with Pakistan as it were.  How much realistically can we expect the United States and others to put pressure on Pakistan for us, given that they need Pakistan in the war on terrorism?

Kanwal Sibal: I think we have already made considerable gains insofar as the United States is concerned as also the international community in general.  Until a few months ago, none of these countries was willing to recognize that what was happening in Jammu and Kashmir was terrorism.  They would not use the word terrorism.  In fact they would describe it as militant violence or some other phrase of that nature.  Now they have begun to talk publicly about terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.  Until more recently, they were not willing to directly connect this terrorism to Pakistan.  Now, if you see the national statements of these countries as well as the statements made by important international organizations like the G-8, or EU, or ASEAN, or for that matter even the recent declaration that was issued at Brunei, all of them specifically ask Pakistan to end permanently infiltration across the Line of Control. So, this is a very big gain that we have made in terms of international pressure on Pakistan to cease all support to terrorism. 

Now the fact is that we would like this pressure to produce results within a short time frame whereas it is possible that other countries that are putting pressure on Pakistan do not want to exert so much pressure on them for fear that they may destabilize Pakistan, or they may destabilize the Pakistan Government, and as they say to us privately, certainly but I do not think they said it publicly, to have another failed State on their hands after Afghanistan.   So, in that sense, yes, we would like the results to be produced in a shorter time frame, whereas the strategy that they are pursuing may not guarantee us that result.  So, it is a question of patience.  I think this is a very longstanding problem.  We have lived with it for so many years.  Even the aspect of terrorism we have lived with for ten years in Jammu and Kashmir.  So, even if there is some delay in achieving the results that we are set out to achieve, we are heading in the right direction.

Kanti Bajpai: A quick supplementary.  Is there something the Government of India is saying to the United States and others on what we want done now?  There are two or three suggestions we have made to them in respect of which they should proceed.

Kanwal Sibal: At the risk of repeating, I would say what we have told them is what I have mentioned just now that (a) General Musharraf must implement in full the engagements that he has taken vis-à-vis the international community, and in particular what has been conveyed to us by the Americans through Mr. Armitage.  We have been told by the Americans that the commitments that were made to them were to President Bush, to Colin Powell himself, to Armitage, and they expect their friends to honour their commitments.  

That is one aspect of it. But for us that is not the end of the story because as I said, infiltration is not to be equated with terrorism.  Therefore, something has to be done about those who have already infiltrated.  We put their figure at about 3,000.  We are also concerned about the communication links between those who have been infiltrated and their handlers and supporters across the Line of Control. 

For a short while we found that the communication links had tended to get somewhat less active.  But lately they are as active as they were before.  We have also, on the basis of good information, come to understand that some instructions have been given to these infiltrators to lie low for some time. Across the Line of Control in terms of people who are at staging posts, or at points where they are being infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir, there had been some movement and relocation of personnel.  But there we also understand that in some cases the message has gone, ‘Withdraw, but leave enough material and resources behind that within one week if you are asked to reactivate your networks, you can do so’.  

And then there is the question of funding and other things.  So, these are the things they must do.  In other words, there must be visible, decisive, credible action by Pakistan to dismantle the apparatus, the infrastructure of terrorism.  That is what is required.

Karan Thapar: Mr. Foreign Secretary, you are leading us to extensive evidence of what sounds like the duplicity of Pakistan.  They are saying one thing and do another. Now, have you made that evidence available to your western interlocutors?  If you have, how then do you react to the fact that they seem to still believe that the General is doing all that he can?  Therefore, their position and your’s seem to disregard the evidence …

Kanwal Sibal: No, it is not that.  As I said, the General is cooperating with the Americans with regard to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.  I do not think that can be denied, although one can question whether that this cooperation is 100 per cent, or 80 per cent, or 70 per cent, or 50 per cent.  I would not like to second guess the Americans.  But let us look at the facts on the ground.  If the cooperation were 100 per cent, how come they have not ught any leader of Taliban?  

How come they have not virtually caught any leader of Al Qaeda?  How come, and this is now being reported daily in the American press, the Taliban and Al Qaeda are virtually in every city and the town of Pakistan.  Is it possible to imagine that all these people who are being tracked, who are being pursued, who are being followed by the Americans and the ISI and the Pakistan Government are supposedly cooperating fully with the American Government in this regard and still they are all over Pakistan.

Karan Thapar:   Are you suggesting that the Americans have been gullible?

Kanwal Sibal: No.  What I meant is that the cooperation that they are getting from Pakistan on the basis of evidence on the ground may or may not be 100 per cent.  But it is possible that the Americans feel that the problem is very complex, it is very difficult, and therefore, they want to show us the way of patience and understanding.  But that is a separate issue altogether.  But, insofar as cooperation with the Government of India is concerned, that Pakistan is not extending.  

So, when the Americans says, or others say that General Musharraf is doing the best he can, I would like to interpret this, and I think the right way to interpret this would be, that insofar as they are concerned and their demands are concerned, General Musharraf is cooperating but we cannot say that with regard to our demand and our concerns.

C. Rajamohan: You have talked about the impressive support that India has gained in the last six months from the western world, from the various multi-lateral groupings and specifically the cooperation from the Anglo-American powers.  But, isn’t there a danger that we are beginning to lose the support by being seen as an obstacle or as being negative?  What one does not see from the statements of the Government of India is any sense of vision of where do you want to take the Indo-Pak relations, when do you want to talk the Kashmir question.  It is all being, ‘We won’t talk till something something happens." Is there a vision at all?

Kanwal Sibal: It is not that at all.  We have recently the visits of Jack Straw, of Colin Powell, before that of Armitage.  We have had Dominique de Villepin, the Foreign Minister of France.  I can guarantee you that in the talks they have had with us, they have very good understanding, very good comprehension of India’s concerns and demands.  There is a lot of clarity in thinking with regard to what Pakistan must do.  

Clearly no one wants a military conflict.  So, if they do talk about a resumption of dialogue, they are not transcending, or they are not going out of the sequence that we have been advocating which they have accepted,  which means end to infiltration, action against terrorism, dismantling camps, etc., de-escalation by India, and dialogue. This sequence is being accepted.  We have already taken some de-escalatory steps in terms of opening up the airspace, in terms of informally announcing the name of a High Commissioner, and also in terms of the movement of our naval forces back to base.  These are major, significant military and political steps.   

Of course, on the other side the Pakistanis had said that these are self-serving steps and they are not important, and India must enter immediately into a dialogue with Pakistan, and that dialogue must be on Kashmir.  If tomorrow we take other steps, it is possible that Pakistan will come back and say, ‘These are all self-serving steps." For example if we were to say that we will take some action with regard to Air Force, they will say, ‘Oh! You are doing this because you cannot remain mobilized on the border so long’.  If we say we will take action with regard to de-mobilisation of our forces on the international border, they will again say that that is self-serving also because how long can you keep your forces on the border.  He is saying that publicly that the military is being degraded, etc., etc.

Another interesting aspect is, whereas we in the beginning were saying, and I think this answers your question, that Pakistan must end terrorism before we can even think of dialogue. But we have now accepted this strategy. This is based on what others are saying that "Do not expect him to do everything in one go.  He cannot do it.  Give him time.  Be patient."  

Alright! Now we are saying that you take a succession of steps and from our side we will have a succession of de-escalatory steps leading to dialogue.  In other words, we have accepted a fair strategy.  But now, the whole thing has been reversed where General Musharraf is saying, "I have done what I have to do. There is nothing more that I can do.  Now you have a dialogue with me and that dialogue must be on Kashmir."

Kanti Bajpai: Can I get you back to the US issue?  You seem to suggest that the relationship with the US in respect of what must be achieved with Pakistan is not too bad.  How should we react then to a spate of US statements on India-Pakistan relations including some of the following, let me just read from this little text, that Pakistan is a good ally and not a terrorist state; that infiltration across the LoC has come down; that India should resume a dialogue with Islamabad; that Kashmir has been internationalized; that holding free and fair elections is vital; that prisoners in Kashmir should be set free; and that the US has human rights concerns about Kashmir.  There are people who, if they looked at this set of statements, would say something is not so good in the state of India-US relations.  Indeed they say there is almost a tilt beginning to come about the other way.  I suppose this speaks a little bit of Raja’s point, are we losing some of the momentum we gained after May?

Kanwal Sibal: Frankly, I cannot for a moment imagine that the United States can tilt in favour of Pakistan on the issue of terrorism.  They can tilt in favour of Pakistan for other reasons, geo-political and others, but not on the issue of terrorism because that is Amerca’s and international community’s fundamental concern.  

They cannot at all overlook the fact that the epicenter of terrorism today, whether the Pakistan Government today is fully involved or not, is in Pakistan.  It has shifted from Afghanistan.  They have a huge task yet to be achieved.  I just mentioned to you the kind of challenges that they are facing.  So, how can they at all lose sight of the fact that the great challenge that faces the United States and the international community today in Pakistan is the combat of terrorism.  So, on this issue they cannot.


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