Minister of External Affairs and Defence Jaswant Singh
Interview with Star TV
New Delhi, India
September 17, 2001

QUESTION: External Affairs Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, thank you very much for joining us. Let us ask the very basic question…. Will there be war?

ANSWER: No… in the sense… well there is an assumption that warfare in the form, as we have always known in the past, there has been a transformation in the nature of war. And when President Bush calls out to his country and says " We are at war" or "it is an act of war" he is not over-dramatizing. He is in fact, putting his finger on the fact that today's war is this clandestine, proxy, hidden war which strikes at innocents and strikes at targets that are all civilian.

QUESTION: But will there be a military fall out of this clandestine war?… will there be use of arms….will we see armed forces being used….will there be a multi-national force?

ANSWER: I think…we are arriving at far too many conclusions far too quickly. This is a declaration of war against the United States of America, without any doubt. As we in India have been saying we are fighting a proxy war … a clandestine war for the past decade plus. Such wars are not declared by the adversaries. They are simply pursued by them. We therefore, at some stage have to cope….cope with means, means other than economic and diplomatic and employ the military too. Yes…inevitably.

QUESTION: That means there will be military war against those who were responsible for these strikes?

ANSWER: You must understand that war against the terrorist is not simply.. or by military means alone. There is diplomatic, first of all the legal … building up of the international community, will, resolve and the unity of purpose. Thereafter, there is the economic… there is build up of the revulsion of the international community. These are all aspects of waging a war… a constant struggle.

QUESTION: So in your belief will military action will be the last option after all options are exhausted?

ANSWER: No, not exhausted… military is one of the means amongst the many of the means that must be employed to defeat the terrorist and the terrorist organizations.

QUESTION: Will we be part of that exercise…will India be the part of that military exercise?

ANSWER: We are coping with terrorism and have coped with terrorists for the past decade plus. Now, … will we be part of international community's efforts?

Each member of the international community that is resolved to fight this menace will play a part that is appropriate to the occasion, to the circumstances and to the requirements.

QUESTION: You say that each country will play its part. There is a feeling , at least in the sub-continent, that Pakistan has already started playing its part promising its unstinted support to the United States of America. In that sense is it upstaging us in some say in its international efforts?

ANSWER: No….The question suggests as if we in any sense…India is in any kind of a gain. No, we are not. I am very glad that the statements that are emanating from Pakistan suggest that Pakistan seems to be recognising not simply the futility ..indeed even the counter-productivity of pursuing the path of employing terrorism as an additional instrument of foreign policy. As they abandon that.. if they come and join the rest of the international community in abandoning terrorism; promoting terrorism; aiding; abetting cross-border terrorism, that will be a very welcome development.

QUESTION: Can we take this at the face-value? Do you really believe that September 11 will dramatically change the way Pakistan sees the whole notion of cross-border terrorism?

ANSWER: I think…you see my experience in this regard should not colour the judgement of others. My experience is different. But, it is possible and it is my hope. But the comments that are coming even from high quarters in the United States of America suggest that .. yes… the words are to one effect… they are in one direction. We will now have to wait and watch how these words are translated into real delivered action.

QUESTION: They are also talking about conditions being imposed for helping out or perhaps extraditing Osama Bin Laden saying that any retaliatory action should not involve India and Israel and that US must play a greater role in mediation on Kashmir. Does not that concern you? It is almost look like a barter Agreement between Islamabad and Washington.

ANSWER: No, no…It does not concern me nor the sheer absurdity of what is suggested here. After all it is based purely on reports. I do not firstly believe these reports. I don't believe that the announcements by high dignitaries of the United States of America about their resolve to fight the system… about their resolve to create an international community's total commitment to these issues can be accompanied by any kind of bargaining about terrorism. There is no bargaining…there cannot be. Because bargaining with terrorism tantamount to accepting terrorism and granting it legitimacy.

QUESTION: You don't see Pakistan using this as an opportunity to emerge -- re-emerge let us say- as a Frontline ally of the United States. Doesn't that concern you- concern New Delhi at all?

ANSWER: Look…please understand India's relationship with United States is not a hyphenated relationship. We, India and the United States, have a relationship which is based on values. Our subscription to common values that are based on faith in democracy; in human rights…so many other aspects. We don't see India's relationship either with the U.S. or with any other country for that matter as a reflection of or refraction from or as viewed through the prism of any other prejudices. No. India is India. Its relationship with other countries-- of course, with United States of America too-- stand on their own. If relations between Pakistan and the United States improve - very good. Why should it not improve?

QUESTION: So will our responses post-September 11 will in way be coloured by what happens in Pakistan-US relationship…by how Pakistan responds to the challenge of terrorism?

ANSWER: No, not at all. I have made it quite clear that were Pakistan to have real change of heart; and re-address all the faulty and destructive policies that it has been pursuing for almost two decades now, it would be a welcome development.

QUESTION: But a development which you are not convinced is going to happen?

ANSWER: I am not. I know the reality. I know because the reality of what you have helped come into existence in Pakistan, you cannot wish away overnight.

QUESTION: Will we be satisfied about this fight against terrorism only if our concerns are understood; if action is taken against groups which have been responsible for terrorist activities in this country?

ANSWER: No, no, no. I am not saying India's concerns are of primary importance, of primary concern. India's concerns are India's concerns. But if the international community is addressing terrorism and the system as such then you cannot sectionalise it. You cannot address it in one part or at one place and leave all others unattended.

QUESTION: I think you are saying that if you target Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan and they are linked in some ways to groups operating in Pakistan like Lashkar e Toiba or Harkat ul Mujahedeen, you have got to target all of them?

ANSWER: Not…well…target, in the sense address all issues because issues were to address only one and leave all others… and then, you are in fact committing wrong in the hope of doing right.

QUESTION: But where do we stand in this entire debate. I mean are we now looking at…you say that the world has recognised the horrors of global terrorism. But a month or two months down the line will that translate on the ground-- let us say--in Kashmir- will that lead to a greater understanding, greater support for India on the ground when India suffers from Cross Border Terrorism?

ANSWER: Actually, India has never hankered after support because we have done this on our own. We have coped with this on our own. And we, not only have the capability and the will, we continue to do so… we will do so. So it is not we are not, but we welcome…. It is like sad recognition. It is also sad realisation that what was up till now -- I can say-- India's battle has now, that same battle against terrorism, has been joined by the United States of America.

QUESTION: But don't we have any expectation of the United States of America or the global community when it comes to this battle?

ANSWER: Of course, I have. I have expectation. I think the fact.. joint battle against terrorism is a great movement forward. I don't have expectations which suggest, as if, India's resolve and fight against terrorism is dependent on any external support. No, we are committed to fighting it… we will continue to do so. The rest of the international community has better recognised it already now , three years down the line, than they did earlier.

QUESTION: Now, how do you carry out a war against a system. You target, for example, bases-- I come back to bases in Pakistan--, if there was to be a military action against terrorism, would that involve striking at bases involved which are there in all over the world. Is that possible?

ANSWER: No, no. You are concentrating only on the military action part of it. I did suggest this when you started this interview that this has many components. It has the components...of the diplomatic; the economic, the creation of an international opinion, a proper and strong UN led legal regime that ensures that this does not happen. What is required to be done is, I think, very well put- in in a piece that I saw written recently by Henry Kissinger. It said: Those that perpetrate terror must be made to run so that they don't have the time to commit terror.

QUESTION: What about the fine line between those who practice terror and those who claim there freedom fighters?

ANSWER: I think this is very old story now and that is a debate which was resolved long back and this distinction about freedom fighters and terrorists and the terrorists employing means of destruction against innocent men, women and children. What type of freedom fighters are they?

QUESTION: Do you think this is a big lesson of September 11. Those lines between freedom fighters and terrorists are completely blurred and Pakistan no longer can use those distinctions?

ANSWER: I do believe so. Because when you said so September 11 is a great divide for many reasons as you have said yourself. This is one of the reasons the globe has suddenly woken up because of the shear horror and the drama and the tragedy as depicted on television screens all across the globe instantly.

QUESTION: Is it possible to make this divide so easily given the fact that all across the world various terrorist movements have been spawned. The Al Qaeda of Osama Bin Laden , for example, is suppose to have a net work stretching tens of countries? Is that possible really to have this type of sort of Global action against terrorism or is this all America's war at the end of the day, for all the rhetoric we may have?

ANSWER: No it can't be America's war. It did not begin with this ghastly strike against the World Trade Center twin towers it won't end like that. That is why it is a very long haul. It will test our resolve. It will test our patience. It will also test our nerve.

QUESTION: But isn't there a double standard of hypocrisy under lining this battle. For example Israel says that it is going to be a part of this concert of democracy. The Palestinians would agree that Israel has practised terrorism against them. How do you over come these difficulties--these various double standards. Osama Bin Laden having been set up by Americans twenty years ago. Will it be possible to eliminate fears about that?

ANSWER: I don't think. You see in the complexity of the global situation and the varying demands that global situation throw up, quite often, in fact most often, straight line individual logic does not apply. Fears of sheer complexity of a global threat like terrorism which now every one recognises -- whether it be Philippines or Indonesia or it is elsewhere in the world. The menace of terrorism has to be addressed. It is a crime against all humanity. It is a distinction between civilization and those that subscribe to no such civilization and norms.

QUESTION: Today, there were attacks on Sikhs who have been mistaken as Arabs. Will this also spawn in that sense, a kind of racial hatred on these fears, also legitimate fears, that while dividing the world in this fashion, they are also spawning ancient hatreds and bringing them to the fore?

ANSWER: No, these are aberrations. These were responses borne out of the tragedy and the trauma of the tragedy. And the leadership of United States of America…we brought these to their attention. They are extremely mindful of them. In fact President Bush himself , to whom Prime Minister Vajpayee spoke personally on the subject assured the Prime Minister that this is reprehensible; not acceptable and that he would , having already earlier instructed, be further instructing the Attorney General to ensure that such a thing does not happen.

QUESTION: This was discussed in the………?

ANSWER: Last evening in the telephone conversation between President Bush and Prime Minister Vajpayee.

QUESTION: More specifically, if you look at the events of today what role, do you believe, will India play in the days to come- specifically in tackling the present problem. Do you think we will be joining some multi-national force? Is that inevitable?

ANSWER: I think you are too fixated on the force part of it. India has suggested and we have discussed this with various countries. Let there be a concert of democracies against terrorism-- a global concert. Let us all act together against terrorism . Let this concert, or coalition- whatever you wish to call it- be armed with all the possible legal means for it. After all this very… this act in the United States of America has drawn instant support, for example, from Russia, from China, from European Union, from NATO …from India…from a whole host of countries.

QUESTION: Where will Pakistan be in this….battle?

ANSWER: Pakistan in this battle against terrorism is perhaps a Frontline State in a geographical sense. But in the fight against terrorism is conceptually Pakistan a Frontline State? Alas! Not yet. Were it to become so, it would be a very welcome development.

QUESTION: You have fears for the dilemma that Pakistanis now finds themselves…that they could find themselves under pulls and pressures moving in different directions. Does that concern you?

ANSWER: Well I do. It is not just fears….It is a reality. It is a reality the leadership of Pakistan faces, it is a reality that has been commented upon on a daily basis in inside Pakistan. It is a reality that in fact, is finding manifestation in some demonstrations that are erupting here and there.

QUESTION: Conditions that Pakistan has laid out particularly about Kashmir and about keeping India and Israel out of any retaliatory action. Where does that leave the Agra process? Do you believe that the Agra Process has been affected in some way by the events of September 11.

ANSWER: Well, let us call it a defining moment or a global divide. I cannot say that it is business as usual- if it comes to the "after Agra situation" Will it leave….what it has to do with our endeavors ..Lahore Process. We will persist. Because it might be retarded. It will be retarded. There are other preoccupations. But we have always said that a socially at-ease Pakistan and which implies many things--and a Pakistan that is economically viable and Pakistan that is politically a part of the rest of the international community is good for Pakistan; is good for India- is good for the region. I continue to believe that will it be achieved overnight? No! Should it be achieved Yes.

QUESTION: Was it a setback?

ANSWER: Well, I would call it a very long full-stop or a very long semi-colon if not a full-stop to a process. The process after all is subject to timing. The appropriateness of the moment. The present is of course, not the appropriate moment in thinking on those lines.

QUESTION: Let me just come to …the September 11. We started off by saying that it is a watershed. Is that a view you share that the world will not be the same again after September 11? At least in the geopolitical sense.

ANSWER: Oh yes, of course yes. Let me explain why it is a watershed. It is watershed from a variety of reasons. It is a watershed for the recognition of terrorism as a new form of warfare. Hence, President Bush is persuaded to call it this millennium's- or this century's first war. It is a watershed in the sense that for the first time in its history U.S.A. has had to suffer an attack inside the United States of America on U.S. soil …. For the first time ever. It is a traumatic experience for them. They have all along, through their history, been secure behind bastions of the two great oceans. That has been…those bastions have been breached. Of course, there are changes which will have long time consequences for the U.S. society for the approach that US has to such issues.

QUESTION: It has been a very traumatic week… well thank you very much for joining us.

ANSWER: Thank You.