Minister of External Affairs and Defence Jaswant Singh
Press Conference on the Attacks
New Delhi, India
September 12, 2001

External Affairs Minister (EAM) said it was a grim tragedy that had visited the United States of America. He said we had already offered our deepest sympathy and condolences to the President, the Government, and the people of the United States. He said that we clearly stood with the United States of America and the international community in this fight against terrorism. We had traveled this road long enough in India. India had a commitment as a nation and people to fight this scourge and he wished to convey this commitment to the people of the United States of America in the midst of a great trauma.

EAM took the opportunity to express particular concern about the many people of Indian Origin and the Non-Resident Indians who had made America their home and who were working at the World Trade Center Towers. He said two help-lines had been established in New York, and one more would be established at Patiala House in the Ministry of External Affairs with effect from 10 a.m. tomorrow, the 13th September. The telephone number of this help-line was 3381500 and it would be manned around the clock. The purpose of establishing these three help-lines was to provide such assistance to anxious relatives and friends who had not so far been able to get in touch with their near and dear ones. He said that he had been in regular touch with the Permanent Mission of India in New York and our Consulate General as well as our Embassy in Washington D.C. No member of the staff of our missions and their families had been affected by these incidents and they were safe. But this although a relief was not a compensation. We did not look at these circumstances in a narrow fashion. The fight against terrorism which is a scourge of our present times is not directed against any one individual; it is directed against certain manifestations, and fighting these manifestations, India had said clearly yesterday – and he was taking this opportunity to repeat it, as indeed the Prime Minister had also done – that in fighting this scourge we stand with the United States of America, and the international community and shall continue to do so, as we had done in the past, also.

Regarding the forthcoming U.N. General Assembly Session, EAM said that the opening session of the UNGA was to commence with the election of the new President of the UNGA, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, but it could not take place yesterday. It was scheduled for 3 p.m today, but just half an hour ago, we had heard that the Secretariat of the U.N. was asked to be vacated. On account of this, it was extremely doubtful, he said, that the opening session of the UNGA would take place today. He had tried to speak to the U.N. Secretary General, and a time had been fixed for this, only to be told that the Secretariat of the U.N. was being quickly vacated. Hence, the conversation had not taken place.

In response to questions that followed, EAM made the following points:

We will provide whatever assistance required from India to the United States to fight the menace of terrorism;

Terrorism is a crime against humanity – terrorist acts do not make a distinction between one caste or one faith. The whole purpose of terrorism is to hit at innocents. It was an experience that India has had – India had traveled these gloomy and dark bylanes and roads of terrorism. Terrorism is a regression into medieval malevolence. He did not recognize terrorism as a manifestation of one particular faith – the noble faith of Islam was not synonymous with terrorism. We would combat terrorism, and conquer it.

It was a pure coincidence that the National Security Advisor of Israel happened to be in New Delhi at the time of this benumbing attack. It is not with Israel alone that India has this security dialogue.

Our offer of assistance, as mentioned in the Prime Minister’s letter to President Bush, was unambiguous and unconditional. As far as sharing details of security aspects (of any tangible programme of cooperation) in public, this was ruled out.

India had taken the necessary steps to safeguard its security, both internal and external; the Cabinet Committee on Security had met to make an assessment of the steps already taken, and what needed to be taken.

For many years, we had known what Pakistan is doing- the spread of the Taliban, and the training camps which were the centers of training of terrorists. The whole world knew that these camps had been training terrorists not only from Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also from diverse parts of the world. These were facts. But it was factually incorrect to assert that India had been demanding that Pakistan be designated as "this, that, or the other". To therefore state that we should utilize these present events to secure such an objective would miss the point. Our target was clear – our target was terrorism and that is where we were concentrating for now.

Asked whether the recent events were linked in any way to Osama Bin Laden, EAM said that we would have to await the assessment of the United States; in the face of this grim human tragedy we would not indulge in the game of speculation.

It was not enough to address the issue of terrorism episodically, or just talk about its symptoms; we had to go to its root and address the system that promotes such symptoms; this was what President Bush had said, and India had been saying for many years.

Asked whether the meeting between Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf would be postponed, EAM said this would be dependent entirely on the assessment we obtain from the office of the Secretary General of the U.N. and from our Permanent Mission on the holding of the UNGA. Once the assessment was with us, "we would take the correct step at the correct time".