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'Terrorism Is Terrorism'

CNN Q&A with Zain Verjee, aired January 11, 2002 - 11:30:00 ET

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'Terrorism Is Terrorism'
'Terrorism Is Terrorism'
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-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Indian Home Minister LK Advani sat down to talk to Q&A on Thursday.

I asked him, what's the minimum India wants to hear from the speech Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf will make this weekend.

LK Advani, Home Minister, India: It's not a question of minimum. It's more a question of reassuring us -- and when I say us, I mean not only the government of India, but also the people of India -- that Pakistan has abandoned the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

Whatever be the cause, basically nations have to agree, particularly after the 11th of September, the 13th of December, that no nation, no government, would use terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

Verjee : But Pakistan has taken some tangible moves towards reassuring India and the rest of the world of its commitment to fight terrorism. I mean, the leaders of Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba were arrested. Many other militants were also arrested, in the hundreds. And offices were closed down, accounts were frozen.

Why isn't this enough?

Advani : These moves have been taken, and to the extent that they have been taken, we official said it is a move in the right direction.

But, frankly, when we look at the entire approach of Pakistan, even after September 11th, we do not feel convinced that these moves are substantial. They are essentially tactical moves.

Verjee : So what do you want Pakistan to do?

Advani : As put out yesterday in my press conference, firstly, I would like Pakistan to abandon helping terrorists in either finance or in arms or in enabling them to go across the line of control into India. All these measures have to be taken, apart from handing over the 20 terrorists who have committed acts of terrorism in India and who have been given asylum in Pakistan.

Verjee : Well, first of all, it has to be said that Pakistan denies financing and supporting these militant groups that cross the line of control.

And as for the 20 militants that you're referring to, Pakistan says that there is no extradition treaty between the two countries, so how can you request these 20 militants in the first place?

Advani : So far as denial is concerned, I remember earlier Pakistani leaders denying having anything to do with what all happened in India. But lately, after Gen. Musharraf came into office, after that his public stand has been, when he came to Agra (ph), or only recently when he visited Katmandu for the SAARC meeting, his stand has been that what is happening in Jammu and Kashmir is not at all terrorism, it is a freedom struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

And so he has not denied assisting them. He's said that yes, it's my duty to see that that struggle for independence...

Verjee : Well, Pakistan's position has always been that of morally supporting them. And that's it, they say.

Advani : Not morally supporting them. I can say that not a single person can come across the line of control, but in the last years and in fact even in the last three or four months, every months we have a couple of hundred crossing across, because this is not possible without the Pakistan government facilitating it.

And therefore, we have said that this must stop.

Verjee : You're asking Pakistan for a lot. Isn't it about time the Indian government started looking inwards and asking itself what it can do, and whether it was prepared to address the grievances, for instances, of the Kashmiri people, rather than blaming everything that happens in Kashmir on Pakistan?

Advani : People should know that there was a time when it was people of Jammu and Kashmir who used to go over to Pakistan, get training, get arms, get finance, and come back here to indulge in all kinds of activities. That's no longer so.

Nowadays, it is people from Pakistan, people from Afghanistan, people from some other Islamic countries, drawn in by the appeal of jihad, who come as mercenaries into Jammu and Kashmir.

Verjee : No, hold on. My question, though, is, what is India prepared to do to address the grievances of the Kashmiri people and bring them back into the fold, rather than saying it's all Pakistan's fault?

Advani : So far as the Kashmiri people are concerned, in fact so far as the people of India are concerned, it is the duty of every government to see that their legitimate grievances are removed. And that continues as an act of government. And I can say that the present government has been consciously doing its duty in that regard.

Even in respect of Kashmir, we have appointed a senior official of the cabinet rank, Shcasy Pundt (ph), to talk to various groups in Jammu and Kashmir and to address the grievances that they have.

Verjee : Consciously doing its duty, there are a lot of critics that would differ with that. They talk about human rights abuses in Kashmir, corruption in elections. The Kashmiri people being caught between the cross-fire between the insurgence and the Indian security forces. I mean, their lives, the average Kashmiri person, is no better because India has been unimaginative in the way it has dealt with the Kashmiri people, your critics would say.

Advani : Which country in the world, particularly in the developing world, doesn't have problems of this kind? And we address them as honestly and sincerely as we can.

But that cannot be a justification for the killing of innocent people, as happens when terrorists come across the line and start bombing people, start derailing trains, and do all kinds of things.

And things reach a point which I describe as crossing the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), crossing the threshold where even Indian parliament is attacked by these people. And it is this 13th of December incident that has made India think in terms of a different response than it has until now.

Verjee : And it's that 13th of December incident that has also ratcheted up the rhetoric in India and the concern that you could become a victim of your own rhetoric.

For instance, you know, saying one more time, if this happens, we're going to have to do something about it, and if something does happen, the onus is on you, or there is immense pressure on the Indian government, to do something about it, which is an enormously dangerous position to put yourself in.

Advani : I'm sorry if anyone describes this as rhetoric, and the Prime Minister Vajpayee has not at all used rhetoric. He is a person who has been patiently seeing all that has been happening, and he is a person who had to say after the 13th of December that now our patience has been exhausted.

Verjee : OK, but what happens if there is another attack? What happens if an outraged Kashmir peasant picks up a Kalashnikov and shoots an Indian politician? Are you going to blame it on Pakistan or -- I mean, that's Pakistan's concern, that anything that's going to happen now, India is going to jump on it and point the finger immediately at Pakistan.

Can you reassure the Pakistani government that that's not the case?

Advani : Zain, these are hypothetical questions. Lately, I haven't seen Indian people belonging to Jammu and Kashmir, or to any part of India, indulging in this kind of activity. It is people who have been either sent from across the border of activated by different motives who have been doing it.

It is significant that all of the five terrorists who attacked Parliament House, all were Pakistanis.

Verjee : Is the real reason that India is, as has been described in many editorials, sabre-rattling and building up troops on the Pakistani border really to gain favor in advance of a very important election that will be coming up, the Uttar Pradesh state elections, and you need those votes, and this could be one way of getting them.

Advani : I'm a person who is a member of the government, and I would describe any government which thinks in terms of elections while deciding momentous issues of this kind as an irresponsible government.

And I can tell you that thinking of how to deal with terrorism, as for example to have a law like (UNINTELLIGIBLE); we thought of it 1 1/2 years back, even that is attributed to the Utti (ph) elections. It is unfortunately.

And therefore, all I can say is elections do not figure in every single decision that we have been taking in respect of terrorism.

Verjee : You've poignantly made your arguments and criticisms of Pakistan, but I really want to know from you, Mr. Advani , rather than throwing the ball in Pakistan's court, what is the Indian government going to do itself?

Advani : Whatever we need to do to address the legitimate grievances of Jammu and Kashmir, we are doing and we are determined to pursue that path.

Verjee : But, do what? Be specific. This is just broad stuff. Give me specifics.

Advani : Including holding free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

Verjee : Are you willing to pull out 6,000 or 7,000 [the figures sure seem interesting - ed] security forces in Kashmir that tighten the noose, so to speak, around Pakistan? Why don't you pull them out? That could be one way of diffusing things.

Advani : Pull out the security forces? In this situation?

Verjee : Pull out some of them.

Advani : In a situation where the people in Gurdaspur (ph), the people in Rajouri, the people in Punj are repeating again and again that we send our paramilitary forces for their protection.

Verjee : You're building up troops, building the security forces, putting pressure on Pakistan that, if you push Musharraf too hard, there's a concern that he could be toppled and then India will have another problem to deal with.

Advani : I do not think that these apprehensions are correct, basically because when Gen. Musharraf decided to join hands with the United States in its fight against international terrorism, the first and foremost pressure that came upon him was to abandon the Taliban. And which I feel was the most difficult task entrusted to him. And he did it, and has nevertheless survived thereafter.

I do not see why, in his fight against terrorism, he should see terrorism only on the West, not on the East. Terrorism is terrorism, and one terrorism is not good terrorism, because it is in Jammu and Kashmir, and another terrorism is bad because it is in Taliban.

(Courtesy: CNN)


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