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India
External Affairs & Defense Minister Jaswant Singh
Interview with Margaret Wagner on PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer
Washington, D.C.
October 1, 2001

MARGARET WARNER: India isn't on the front line of the war against Afghan-supported terrorism, but it shares an 1,800-mile-long border and a fractious relationship with a key front-line state, Pakistan. Predominantly Hindu India and predominantly Muslim Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

A Pakistani-based militant group claimed responsibility for today's bombing near the Kashmir legislature, which killed at least 30 people. To build support for its coalition against terrorism, the Bush Administration just eased economic sanctions against both countries. They'd been imposed after India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998. With us now is India's foreign and defense minister, Jaswant Singh. Welcome to the program.

JASWANT SINGH: Thank you.

How India can help the U.S.
MARGARET WARNER: And our condolences on the attack and loss of life today in Kashmir.

JASWANT SINGH: Thank you, thank you very much.

MARGARET WARNER: First, let's look at what India can do in this coalition against terror immediately after the attacks India offered its support to the United States.

JASWANT SINGH: Yes.

MARGARET WARNER: What have you been able to provide?

JASWANT SINGH: Well, it's not a question of what I'm able to provide. Our offer to the United States of America, it was on the basis of values and a common and joint commitment to democracy and a way of life, which is the very antithesis of terrorism. There is one little point that I would wish to make in advance here. When you introduced India as predominantly Hindu, we are a secular country.

Secondly, we have citizens of India that subscribe to Islam, many more than in Pakistan. We have the second largest Islamic country, in that sense, in the world, after Indonesia. So it would be much better to see India as a secular, pluralistic, democratic country than to be describing it as a pre-dominant number of citizens subscribe to that faith. But that would not be the right way to talk about India.

MARGARET WARNER: I take your point. Let me just ask a little bit more about practical help that the United States might need. There have been reports, for instance, that India has been able to provide intelligence about the location of terrorist training camps along the Afghan- Pakistan border or within Pakistan or Kashmir, and that you've also offered at least the use of your air bases and other bases. Is that correct?

JASWANT SINGH: By its very nature I cannot possibly go into details of what I have been able to share in the field of intelligence. And this is not because I'm by nature secretive, but the nature of information requires that it not be discussed openly. The United States of America wanted to share with us intelligence and in regard to terrorist training camps and other aspects relating to the whole situation in that region, and certainly that, we are doing and on a fairly regular and active basis.

MARGARET WARNER: Let's look at next steps now for the United States and this coalition.

JASWANT SINGH: Yes, yes.

MARGARET WARNER: If the Taliban does not surrender Osama bin Laden, what should the United States do? Do you think, for instance, that military strikes against Afghanistan would be useful?

JASWANT SINGH: I don't think it's a question of speculating whether... If the Taliban. We are very clear in India, firstly, the Taliban is a product of the machinery of Pakistan. Pakistan has continued to aid it, equip it, finance it, militarily and otherwise, and continues to do so. Pakistan will not, of course, be now playing as significant a role in influencing the situation as it up until now has been doing. The Taliban will not hand over Osama bin Laden.

There has to come a stage when after all the other economic and other measures have been taken to the satisfaction of the coalition, that in accordance with what the United States... The United Nations Security Council has said, action will have to be taken, and that action will have to be selectively military.

MARGARET WARNER: So you don't share the view that military strikes could actually backfire against the United States and the coalition?

JASWANT SINGH: Of course not. If one of the instruments of terrorism is military-- and the whole point of spreading terror is through military or causing military means. How can you respond to a strike of steel by any other means than steel?

MARGARET WARNER: Now the United States is also giving support now to some of the anti-Taliban groups within Afghanistan and at least it has been reported that India, in fact, has supported in the past the Northern Alliance. Do you think this is a realistic strategy to try to unseat the Taliban through other groups?

JASWANT SINGH: Well, as a matter of fact, India has never recognized Taliban as the legitimate regime. We have continued to recognize the government of Afghanistan as represented by President Rabbani. They have formed the Northern Alliance. We have stood by the Northern Alliance and the government of Rabbani, and it should really be the effort of the international community now to strengthen the legitimate government of Afghanistan which is President Rabbani and the Northern Alliance and to give us whatever is required. They will deal with Taliban very adequately, I'm confident.

MARGARET WARNER: So you think that if they're given enough support that they could overthrow the Taliban?

JASWANT SINGH: Without any doubt. I have no doubt about it in my mind. The international community must recognize that to perpetuate with this Taliban regime is to perpetuate with terrorism. After all, the Taliban regime hardly represents the Afghanistan. It is really a surrogate for the Al Qaeda, and the Taliban currently really is being run by the Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

MARGARET WARNER: You mentioned that Pakistan had helped the Taliban come to power and has supported it through the years. Are you uncomfortable or uneasy at all about the U.S. and its... U.S.'s working relationship with Pakistan now?

JASWANT SINGH: No, no, no, no, absolutely not. I'm not uncomfortable with that aspect. And I'm sure the United States will not... should not really... we shouldn't make the mistake of treating the problem as the solution.

MARGARET WARNER: Explain that.

JASWANT SINGH: Well, I have always believed that the whole epicenter of the spread of terrorism now in the region including in Central Asia and Iran suffered at the hands, we do, of course, in India, not simply in the state of Kashmir, but in other parts of India. So the focus of terrorism had become Afghanistan and Pakistan -- principally promoted from Pakistan and encouraged because of the sheer absence of administrative structure in Afghanistan. So they are, to my mind-- and we know it-- they're a part of the problem.

MARGARET WARNER: So what do you want the United States or what do you think the United States should do about that -- if the United States shares this view that Pakistan has supported terrorism in the past?

JASWANT SINGH: Well, I personally am of the view-- and this is the view of the government of India and a very majority of my citizens-- that our approach to terrorism cannot be uni-dimensional. It must cover all the 360 degrees of the Asthmas. It would be simplistic and a great error for us to think that simply by eliminating one manifestation of terrorism-- the Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden-- we have eliminated a global threat.

Believe me, I don't say it for any other reason, we have lived with this problem for 20 years. We might or might not have experienced what you have as a great nation, but there are certain aspects of life and governance in which we do have an experience. When the United States of America has now decided, your President has announced a fight is global and it is against global terrorism, then you have to address itself totally.

At the moment, you wish to concentrate, focus your attention and be applying yourself to Al Qaeda, absolutely fine. But believe me that if you think that by eliminating the Al Qaeda and leaving every other organization intact the problem would have even begun to be resolved, no.

MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Minister, thank you for joining us.

JASWANT SINGH: Thank you very much.

END