I will be visiting
United States this week to have wide ranging discussions with policy makers and
senior government officials on matters relating to defense cooperation and also
issues of immediate concern in the Sub-Continent. Needless to say, India’s
views on the current scenario will figure on the agenda. You would recall that
US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld had visited India in November, 2001 and
this visit is at the invitation of US Secretary of Defense. When Mr. Rumsfeld
was here we had wide ranging talks. These related largely to defense and
security related issues and provided impetus to defense cooperation between our
two countries. The visit had also laid the foundation for the successful meeting
of the Defense Policy Group (DPG) in December 2001, after a lapse of four years.
The military to military relationship between the two countries has recently seen considerable expansion. In the last one year there has been major qualitative change in the field of defense cooperation. With the DPG and the forthcoming Executive Steering Groups’ meetings, the cooperation is set to further strengthen both in scope and content. A number of joint exercises are also on the cards.
India and US, the World’s two largest democracies have many shared values. Over the recent years, the perception of each other has changed dramatically and is no longer straight jacketed by cold war thinking. The two countries now are striving to be partners for ensuring peace, stability, security and prosperity in the Asia Pacific Region.
India was one of the first to pledge its support to the global war on terrorism following the terrorist attack on the US on 11th September, 2001. This pledge was translated into substantive logistical support for the US forces as well. India has been facing the menace of terrorism for several years. The cross border terrorism and the sufferings, particularly in Jammu & Kashmir were highlighted by us at almost all important international fora. However, for a long time, and in fact till 11th September, the menace of terrorism was not understood in the same way as it is today. The Global Coalition must look at not just Afghanistan but all other areas where terror has become a matter of concern for the people at large. You would appreciate that this assumes significance particularly when the terror happens to be perpetrated and/or supported by another country in the neighborhood. It is the constant efforts of India at highlighting these concerns at a global level, that have led finally to not only the admission of cross border terrorism but also to a thought process in the direction of stopping such mindless terrorism.
13th December was a day which will remain etched in the minds of the Indian people for all time. This was a day when the terrorists not merely unsuccessfully attacked the building of the Parliament but struck at everything that the Country stands for. The attempt was to liquidate the entire political leadership of the nation, be it in Government or Opposition. The attempt was also to strike at the root of our secular polity and the values of democracy that India has cherished. There is no way India can accept such acts of terrorism any more. Terrorism, in whatever form it may manifest will be fought and defeated. Let me tell you that the thought of having to receive around 20 bodies of our soldiers every week-brave men slain in terrorist attacks-has steeled our resolve to end this terrorism. I would like to make it clear that we have had enough and shall have no more of it. Peace has been the main plank of the Indian mindset, but when pushed to the corner, Indian nationalism in every patriotic Indian knows how to respond and respond effectively.
It is obvious that during my visit to United States the relationship between India and Pakistan will also be in focus. The promises made by the Pakistani President, General Musharraf have to be translated into action. The Government of India has welcomed the statements of President Musharraf. We have had his word. Now we wait for the deed. India would wait for effective and full implementation of whatever measures have been announced by General Musharraf. The ultimate purpose is to end for all times cross border terrorism. Presently we have undertaken an intense diplomatic effort in this direction and wish to pursue this.
As Defense Minister let me clarify that the build up on the borders pre and post-December 13 has been a response to the activities on the other side. India must and will defend its territory and the armed forces of the country are committed to this task. The entire nation is fed up with the terrorist activities and looks for a permanent solution to this problem. Of course, there have to be political solutions, but they cannot be brought about through any form of terrorism. The mobilisation of Indian forces is complete and any effort at de-escalation can come only, I repeat only, if and when the cross border terrorism is effectively stopped. Things are moving and I hope they move in the right direction and move fast. We are keen to resolve issues peacefully but if that does not work we may be left with no option. Our forces are prepared for any eventuality, and I want everyone to know that they are in great spirits and high morale.
In International relationships, disputes are bound to be there, but in the times we live, they need to be resolved through negotiations. This is what is happening for resolution of our border disputes with China. And we are making progress, howsoever slow it may be. In the meanwhile, there is no conflict on the ground; and political, economic and cultural relations with China are on the upswing. We wish we have a similar situation with Pakistan also. Let me reiterate the Government of India’s commitment to the bilateral dialogue process between India and Pakistan in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Shimla Agreement as well as the Lahore declaration. Let no Nation, no matter how big or small take India for granted. We will do everything that needs to be done to protect our interests.