Newsmaker: Lal Krishna Advani
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RAY SUAREZ: Tensions between India and Pakistan have been rising sharply ever since Kashmiri militants attacked India’s parliament building in New Delhi on December 13. Both sides have been mobilizing their military forces along the borders, and there has been constant shelling between the armies.
For India’s perspective, we go to Lal Krishna Advani, India’s Home Minister. He met with President Bush today. Mr. Minister, welcome.
What did you talk about with the president?
LAL KRISHNA ADVANI, Home Minister India: Naturally we talked about terrorism in the world and how the United States and India could cooperate in combating terrorism and stamping out this evil.
RAY SUAREZ: Recently, when President Musharraf of Pakistan ordered arrests and crackdowns on various groups inside Pakistan, President Bush said he was very encouraged by that development, and hoped India was, too. What has the Indian reaction been to those gestures from Pakistan?
LAL KRISHNA ADVANI: When they arrested the leaders of Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar e-Tayyiba, the two organizations responsible for the attack on India’s parliament, we welcomed it as a move in the right direction.
But we also took note of the fact that the first reactions from Pakistan were that this event has been engineered by India’s own security forces; or secondly, these two organizations have been named only in order to malign the Kashmir freedom movement. And therefore, we felt that what has been done by Pakistan is essentially a tactical move because of Washington’s pressure.
Incidentally, I will mention that your observation that Kashmiri militants attacked the Indian parliament is factually not correct, because all the five terrorists who attacked the Indian parliament belonged to Pakistan. None of them had anything to do with Kashmir. These are facts which, if they known to the world, then the kind of terrorism we are confronting, it would be seen in the proper perspective.
RAY SUAREZ: So the response from Pakistan to these attacks has not been credible to India, and thus, you’re still preparing for war?
LAL KRISHNA ADVANI: We are not preparing for war, but what we know is that a war has been inflicted on us of a different kind for the last 20 years in which war the enemy is unknown, and in which the enemy gets support and sustenance from Pakistan, comes across to our part of the world and there indulges in sabotage, in terrorism, in killing innocent people.
And therefore, we have to frame a response different from the response we have been giving for the last so many years. And it is, therefore, that after 13th of December, we felt that the situation calls for a different response. And we have till now taken a series of steps… calibrated steps on the diplomatic level to put pressure on Pakistan, and we believe that this pressure, accompanied by international opinion, would help us resolve the problem.
RAY SUAREZ: There have been many references to state-sponsored terrorism coming from Indian leaders. What, in the view of the government of India, is the nature of the support of Pakistan’s government for terrorism?
LAL KRISHNA ADVANI: The Pakistan government has been financing terrorists. The Pakistan government has been supplying them arms. The Pakistan government has been facilitating their entry across the line of control, across the international border into India, something that is impossible without the government’s support.
I would say that with the armies lying on both sides of the line of control, or the international border, it is impossible even for a stray dog to come across the line unless it is facilitated by the government on the other side.
And therefore, in my demands that I have made publicly yesterday here, I have mentioned these financing, arming, training and enabling infiltration; plus, of course, I have been of the view that those who have found asylum in Pakistan, those who have been guilty of committing crimes, committing violence, bombing, et cetera in India and whoever has been given asylum in Pakistan, those 20 terrorists, most of them named by the Interpol, should be handed over to India.
RAY SUAREZ: Pakistanis have suggested that the Indian government either does not appreciate or doesn’t wish to credit how difficult it is for Pakistan, given its domestic situation, to come down hard on these groups, given the passions inside Pakistan for the eventual absorption of Kashmir.
LAL KRISHNA ADVANI: Far more difficult for Pakistan was to disown and de-link itself from Taliban. But pressed hard, Taliban is their creation. Taliban is the creation of Pakistan’s ISI. And yet, when the world stood up against Taliban and America mobilized world opinion against it, and America put pressure on Pakistan to de-link itself from Taliban, it did it. I see that the… India’s concerns being addressed by the international community are of a different nature and are certainly simpler than what Pakistan had to do in case of Taliban.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, I’m wondering how your two countries– and now, two nuclear-armed countries– craft a future for a place like Kashmir that they have two mutually contradictory views of?
LAL KRISHNA ADVANI: And therefore, it was that after a series of wars between India and Pakistan, at Shimla we made a final agreement that hereafter, we will have no wars. We will discuss Jammu and Kashmir. There is a wide gulf… different perceptions of the two countries.
We’ll try to sort them out by dialogue. India is keen that we adhere to that Shimla agreement, discuss and debate the issues of Jammu and Kashmir, see how we can narrow the differences. But in the meanwhile, we urge General Musharraf to pledge that peace shall not be held hostage to the resolution of these differences.
RAY SUAREZ: But I’m wondering what a possible future could look like, given the fact that for many Indians, that place is part and parcel of India, and for many Pakistanis, it is similarly part and parcel of Pakistan, should be and they feel that it should have been all the way since partition.
LAL KRISHNA ADVANI: This is hardly an occasion where I could explain at length what really are the nuances of the Jammu-Kashmir issue. But all that I can say in the affirm is that a resolution of this dispute has to be by dialogue. It cannot be by war; either direct or proxy, either covert or overt. It has to be either by peaceful dialogue and negotiation.
RAY SUAREZ: You, yourself, were born, grew up in, was educated in what is now Pakistan. You remember pre-partition India as a young adult. Does this make war on one level unthinkable for you?
LAL KRISHNA ADVANI: That’s right. That’s right, exactly. You’ve mentioned a point, which I emphasized as strongly as I could when General Musharraf came to Delhi six months back. He had been invited by Prime Minister Vajpayee.
And when he came to Delhi, the first question I asked him, “General, you’ve come to Delhi after how long a period?” He said, “I’ve come after 54 years.” And I said, “is it not an irony that you’ve been born in Delhi, and yet you visited Delhi for the first time in 54 years? I have been born in Karachi, and I have visited Karachi only once in 54 years. Is this not a situation that you and I must strive to change?”
And we can change it. I said, “With this government in office here led by Vajpayee, the chances of changing the situation are maximum.” But the minimum requirement is that terrorism must stop. The minimum requirement is that we both must pledge that we’ll have no war, overt or covert, direct or proxy, on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. We’ll discuss Jammu and Kashmir.
RAY SUAREZ: Minister, thanks for being with us.
LAL KRISHNA ADVANI: Thank you.