Ambassador to the US, Lalit Mansingh
Interview with Fox News
September 22, 2001
QUESTION: We're now joined by Lalit Mansingh, India's ambassador to the United
States. Ambassador, welcome.
The coalition President Bush is trying to put together involves a number of
strange bedfellows, including the United States possibly having on its partner
list some states that we list as state sponsors of terrorism.
But maybe the most interesting combination is India and Pakistan, which have
had troubled relations over their years and, most recently, in Kashmir. Can
India and Pakistan work side by side in helping to rout out terrorism?
MANSINGH: Well, as you know, India has grappled with the issue of terrorism
for nearly 20 years now. And the world knows, and the United States knows, that
Pakistan and Afghanistan were one of the biggest exporters of terrorism. But
it's a very positive development that today Pakistan has joined the fight against
international terrorism. I think that's a very positive development.
QUESTION: General William Odom was on our broadcast earlier, and he seemed to
believe that Pakistan, in fact, is going to play a pivotal role if for no other
reason that, having cooperated over the years with the Taliban in Afghanistan,
probably knows more than anybody else.
The real question is, can we trust what Pakistan is going to deliver?
MANSINGH: Well, that's very true, that nobody knows the Taliban better than
Pakistan, because the Taliban is a creation of Pakistan. But you have to see
how this partnership develops and how much cooperation you get out of Pakistan.
QUESTION:What advice do you have for the president as he tries -- you mentioned
that you've been fighting terrorism for 20 years. What advice do you have for
him in terms of the first steps he ought to be taking?
MANSINGH: Well, first of all, we are fully behind the president. He has declared
a long-term war against international terrorism. He intends to take it out,
root and branch. We are fully behind this. Our advice is that, after the initial
phase is over, then it should go and cover all parts of the world where terrorism
is hiding and is functioning from.
QUESTION:It looks like the United States is about to lift sanctions on Pakistan
that were imposed after the underground nuclear testing in 1998, and also perhaps
provide some economic assistance to them in return for them helping us out to
go after Osama bin Laden.
Does that make you uneasy at all, that we are intensifying our friendship with
MANSINGH: No, we have no problem with that. We have always maintained that our
relations with the United States is solid. It stands on its own. It's not dependent
on a U.S. relationship with any other country. So what the United States does
with Pakistan, it doesn't really impinge on our friendship with the United States.
QUESTION: Even with the delicate balance of power there and, as Tony talked
about earlier, the ongoing dispute with Kashmir, that it doesn't bother you
at all that we're going to putting troops and perhaps people or machinery into
MANSINGH: Yes, we clearly understand that this is a fight against terrorism.
It has nothing to do with the Kashmir issue, which is between India and Pakistan.
It's a bilateral matter.
QUESTION: Have been asked if any of your airbases or if your territory might
be used by the United States to stage attacks against Afghanistan?
And as a second question, would India be wiling to add either its personnel
or its machines of war in a fight against terrorism that would include attacks
MANSINGH: You know, in the very first day of the tragedy on the 11th of September,
our prime minister sent a message to President Bush expressing his sympathy
and his sense of outrage about what had happened.
But he has also offered our full cooperation. This is with no conditions attached,
no strings attached. So far we have not received any specific request. So I
can't really answer that part of your question.
QUESTION: Ambassador, a lot of people have said that the form of Islam practiced
by Osama bin Laden is really kind of a fringe element of Islam. Is it really?
MANSINGH: Yes. We should know because we have the second largest Muslim population
in the world. Certainly, there is nothing in that great religion which sanctions
the killing of innocent people. There is no justification for terrorism in Islam.
QUESTION: Has the United States been, perhaps, a little lax in perhaps trying
to follow up in the wake of the Afghanistan war that was waged by the Soviets
in the late '70s and early '80s? Did we make the mistake of not paying enough
attention to the region?
MANSINGH: I won't say that, but I would say this, that international terrorism
has been growing over the years. And this is something that we have been telling
the world that, after the end of the Cold War, this is the biggest threat to
international peace and security. We don't want to say, "We told you so,"
but we have been discussing this both bilaterally and in international forums.
And we are glad that at last the world has woken up to this menace and there's
a concerted effort now.
QUESTION:A number of people are saying that the United Nations ought to lead
any fight against terrorism. What would you rather have leading the charge,
the United States or the United Nations?
MANSINGH: I think it should be done both ways. We have sponsored a resolution
in the U.N. which calls for a comprehensive convention against international
terrorism. But today, it is the United States which has taken the lead, and
I think the entire freedom-loving world, the civilized world, should follow
the U.S. leadership in joining this fight.
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, a year to two -- a couple of years ago, I accompanied
President Clinton on his visit to India. And he got himself into a little bit
of trouble there because he said a statement, something about this being one
of the most dangerous places on earth -- he was referring to the Kashmir conflict.
And he was rebuked somewhat by, I believe it was either your prime minister
or your president. Have the events of the last two weeks been a wake-up call
to America that this kind of danger can happen anywhere?
MANSINGH: Well, we don't share that view, that's the most dangerous place in
the world. It's made dangerous because of the presence of the terrorists. So
if you deal with terrorism, it ceases to be a dangerous place.
QUESTION: Ambassador, final question: A lot of people here in the United States
worried about chemical and biological weapons. Is that a present threat or a
MANSINGH: We have to keep in mind that there is the possibility of this happening.
That's why you have international conventions against this kind of threat.
QUESTION: So you think the United States needs to be worried about it and may
need to take proactive measures?
MANSINGH: I think we need to be aware of the threat and we need to take proactive
QUESTION: All right. Lalit Mansingh, ambassador to the United States from India.