Minister of Defence and External Affairs Jaswant Singh
Interview with The Newspaper Today
New Delhi, India
September 20, 2001

India is facing the problem of terrorism for the last 20 years. It appeared that the US would support India on this front. But during the last few days Pakistan has diplomatically succeeded in projecting itself as a strong US supporter in the latter's campaign against terrorism. How is it going to affect India's position?

India is not bound to react according to the moves that other countries are taking on the issue. India is facing this problem for long. We are fighting against terrorism. After the terrorist attack on the US, the international community has come to realise that the roots of terrorism are spread across the world and it's a serious problem. Acknowledgement of terrorism as an international issue is a welcome step.

Definition of terrorism has been changed lately. In India's context we term it cross-border terrorism. Now the international community is talking about global terrorism. Don't you think this will hamper India's objective to get support to eliminate cross-border terrorism in the first place.

There is no question of first or second. We should not categorise terrorism. The basic nature of terrorism is the same whether it is cross-border or what we have just seen in America. We are confronting this problem for long and we know, the world knows and America is also aware of the fact that the roots of terrorism is in Pakistan. Pakistan and Taliban establishments have been sources of breeding terrorism. They operate training camps in their territories and everybody knows about it.

India has been a victim of Pak-sponsored terrorism. We have lost nearly 30,000 people because of terrorism in the last few decades. Now that Pakistan is coming forward as a strong supporter of America to fight against terrorism, don't you think that India will be marginalised on the strategic front due to Pakistan's move?

If Pakistan is coming forward, it is a welcome step. If you think a country can be marginalised by such moves, it shows your lack of confidence. Nobody can marginalise India. It is good that the international community is united against terrorism. At the moment, the central target is Afghanistan, tomorrow it is going to be zeroed in on some other centres of terrorist activities.

Do you think that Pakistan is going to stop its cross-border activities in Kashmir?

I don't know. We will continue our fight whether they stop or not.

In his address to the nation on September 19, Pakistani President General Pervez Musarraf accused India of defaming his country and Islam. He asked India to just "lay off". What is your reaction to his comment?

The spokesperson for the External Affairs Ministry has already expressed our reaction. As far as his speech is concerned, it was supposed to address the issue of terrorism. I don't understand how the matter of Indo-Pak bilateral relation came in between. And asking India to lay off is also strange. I don't know why the General reacted in such a manner. If Pakistan wants to lay off something, it should lay off terrorism itself.

Do you think that we are going to have an edge in Kashmir?

Just watch and wait for the things to unfold. Why are you getting so restless?

Do you think we can trust Pakistan on its promises to control cross-border activities in Kashmir?

I just want to say that at this point of time it makes no difference what Pakistan says and what it does. I just don't want to evaluate Pakistan's motive on any historical background. And if really there is any change of heart it's a welcome step. We should keep watching whether Pakistan really stands by the anti-terrorism front in the coming days. It is difficult to predict anything about Pakistan's intentions right now. We are looking forward on a positive note. Only time will tell the truth.

We always expected America's support in our efforts to fight terrorism. But it never came. There is no commitment even now. What is your opinion?

Please don't assume that the history of Indo-US relations on terrorism began on September 11. It's been two years now that India and America formed a joint working group to work against terrorism. In fact, India never shared such good relations with the world powers on this particular issue, as it does now.

Isn't it ironic that Pakistan has taken the front seat in the battle against terrorism and somehow India is left behind?

:Well, it's good that a country like Pakistan, who has been a constant source of terrorism, is coming forward as an anti-Afghanistan force. It shows friction between two terrorist countries. And iIf Pakistan joins the anti-terrorist stream it would be a positive thing.

But the so-called jehad is still on in Kashmir?

Yes, we are aware of the fact. As a Defence Minister I know the ground realities in the Valley in the changed scenario after the September 11 attacks on US. I just want to say that our fight will continue. We have our own plans, ideology and principles to combat terrorism. We are not dependent on any other country for these things. Yes, we would like to have support of other countries on this issue. If it is there, fine. If not even then it does not affect us much. We will continue with our actions.

There is strong evidence that many terrorist camps are operating in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). So many times we have raised this issue before the international community. But no pressure has been built against Pakistan. Why?

This is not right. There is pressure on Pakistan.

What kind of pressure are you talking about?

I would prefer not to discuss this here. But I want to assure you that the United Nations and other world powers are analysing things in the right perspective. The irony in the whole episode is that a man can stand against a world power but a world power cannot declare a fight against a single person.

But America is mentioning only a single person (bin Laden) again and again.

That is regarding the incidents of September 11. Their investigative agencies have cornered him as the main suspect. But Afghanistan is not their target. Bin Laden's organization Al Quaida is active all over the world. So this war against the terrorism is not going to be a short-term thing, it's a long battle.

What has India offered to America in its war against terrorism?

We are very clear on this issue that it is not a war against one person. It's a battle against terrorism as a whole. So it would be better to involve as many countries as possible to fulfil the mission. As far as India is concerned till now neither has India offered any airbase to America nor has America asked for it.

How far will India go to support America?

Let me clarify that this is not only an armed war, it's a battle on all fronts -- social, political and economic. We have to confront terrorism on every front. So it would be better if more and more countries join a front. We will also make our contribution.

Do you think such an alliance will take place?

Yes, of course. Things are positively working in this direction. During the last one week the United Nations has passed the resolution on this issue three times. The Nato and other international organizations are also coming forward strongly for the purpose.

Yesterday (September 19) America's ambassador said that Pakistan would be adequately compensated for its support. What kind of compensation is it going to be?

If Pakistan is expecting or doing this work for any kind of compensation then I don't want to make any comment on this.

Is there any possibility of any kind of understanding on the Kashmir issue between US and Pakistan?

No way! Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. We will keep working to put our stand on the issue on the international stage. We have been assured that this issue is not going to be considered as any kind of compensation to Pakistan.

What are the preparations from our side to face any crisis, like possibilities of fresh intrusion in Kashmir?

You are wrong, in fact intrusion attempts have come down after the WTC incident. The centre of activities is going to be Afghanistan and Pakistan. In such a situation how long these terrorists would survive, one has to see.

Don't you think that there is a need for a full time Defence Minister, since you also hold the External Affairs?

Definitely, but this is a subject for thePrime Minister's consideration. As far as my responsibilities are concerned I don't feel any work pressure. I don't postpone the important foreign trips. But, I think we are here to discuss issue of terrorism not this...