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 Pakistan, perhaps?

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 Pakistan?

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 against Afghanistan?

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 future threat?

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 measures.

QUESTION: All right. Lalit Mansingh, ambassador to the United States from India.

Ambassador, thanks for joining us.

MANSINGH: Thank you.