Posted by: Administrator | 7 February, 2007

President interview to Steve Coll of Washington Post

An interview in Islamabad, Pakistan, by Washington Post Managing Editor Steve Coll — President says “but Pakistan is no Iraq and India no United States”

25 May 2002

On the seriousness of the threat of war:
My honest judgment is that the situation is certainly tense, and serious. I say this because of the massing of troops – army, navy, air force – by the Indians, and our doing the same in response. Now in military terminology, we judge it by capability and intention. If intentions are judged through rhetoric and what they are thinking in the mind, capability is physical. It can be quantified. When capability is acquired, in quantified terms, on ground, in terms of forces, the situation becomes extremely explosive. Because the intention can arise at any moment, and extreme adventurism can be undertaken at any time. The seriousness of the situation now is that the capability exists for any adventurous act. So whenever an intention comes about, it will erupt. So therefore, I think as long as the capability exists, the situation will remain serious.

On cross-border infiltrations along the LoC:
Well, I’ve always been saying that there is nothing happening across the Line of Control. And I’ve also said that Pakistan is a part of the coalition to fight terrorism. And we will ensure that terrorism does not go from Pakistan anywhere outside into the world. That is our stand, and we adhere to it.

On concrete steps that can be taken to assure that this commitment can be met:
Well, first of all, as far as observers are concerned, we certainly want neutral observers to watch what is happening. We’ve been saying this all along. There is a United Nations mission here, and this mission should be strengthened, and they must be allowed to monitor the Line of Control on both sides. Unfortunately, the Indian side is not allowing that. We cannot allow Indians to be the judges because they are a party. Therefore any neutral monitors are more than welcome. We’ve been saying that many times. So this is the reality on [the] ground.

And may I also add that Pakistan looks for reciprocation. Now, reciprocation is not de-escalation alone, because de-escalation, if there is some actions from our side, there has to be responses and reciprocation from the other side. Unfortunately, we don’t see reciprocation. Reciprocation, we mean, is de-escalation, initiation of [a] dialogue process, reduction of atrocities within Kashmir.

And when I say that, on defining it, it really means that as a first step, the military should leave the towns and cities of Kashmir and be in the outskirts. And then allowing the international media, human rights organizations, into Kashmir. These are reciprocative measures. We want reciprocation on these lines. And then . . . a useful process on normalization, in its entirety, between India and Pakistan, can proceed.

As to infiltration across the border, as to camps, as to the status of the groups that were banned earlier in the year: Are there new initiatives that your government can take now to advance the cause that you outlined in January? And if so, what concrete steps might be involved:
I know a lot of people are having doubts about this issue, about my having made this speech on 12th January, and not going along with that, or backtracking on it. Let me assure the world through your newspaper that this is furthest from the truth. Now there are three elements – I’ll take a little time on this – there are three elements of terrorism that the world is concerned about.

Number one, the al Qaeda factor. Number two is what they are calling cross-border terrorism and we are calling the freedom struggle in Kashmir. Number three is the sectarian [Sunni vs. Shia] extremism and sectarian terrorism within Pakistan. My government is looking at these three elements. Now, let’s take each. The third one is more our concern, and unfortunately, the world is not bothered about that. We are very much bothered about that, because that is destabilizing us internally. I’ll take each one.

Now, number one, the al Qaeda factor. Pakistan will not – repeat, will not – allow any foreign mercenaries, militants, anywhere inside Pakistan, from anywhere outside the world, whether they are infiltrating through Afghanistan, or coming from any other place. Whether they are on our border belt, or in our cities, we will hunt them down. Now, and let me tell you, I know an article from [The] Washington Post, I was very disturbed about [reporting that Pakistan had hesitated to send troops to its tribal border areas as part of a joint military operation with the United States against al Qaeda and Taliban cells].

And I spoke personally to the leadership in the United States. And I asked them, is there a problem? There is no problem whatsoever. And I would request you to find out from the leadership, from the administration in the United States, and from the military, who’s taking part in all these operations. There is no problem whatsoever in the cooperation and coordination between Pakistan and the United States, on the effort against al Qaeda in Pakistan.

There is no doubt in this. Because it’s in our own interest. We are flushing out anyone who comes from outside. So that much for al Qaeda. And there has been wonderful, successful operations on this, very successful operations. We know how many al Qaeda anyone has caught – how much al Qaeda has the United States caught? We have caught all of them. It’s we who are active. So let that be very, very clear. And this will be borne out by anybody. I take full authenticity of what I am saying. So this is the al Qaeda part. There is no backtracking on it.

Now, let’s come on to the issue of cross-border terrorism. As I’ve said, I think it suffices to say that there is nothing happening across the Line of Control. Now, but I must say, that unfortunately, whatever happens in Kashmir, I cannot guarantee that. Everything that happens there, unfortunately, gets thrown onto Pakistan. . . .

Every time they manage to get people, and they kill them and arrest them, and they say they are ISI agents and Pakistanis. Now, the issue of Jammu, or Parliament, or the bomb attack on the Parliament, and Calcutta, these are condemnable because there were civilians who have been killed, and I call them terrorist acts. There is no doubt in my mind. But let’s have proof. Let us have evidence, if there is anyone involved here who we’d like to move against. This much for cross-border.

. . . You mentioned the groups that we moved against. There were – we moved against a number of groups because they were also involved in – they were involved in sectarian extremist activities in Pakistan. They were destabilizing us internally. And also, many of them, also had fingers in the pie as far as al Qaeda was concerned. So we moved against them. . . . We have closed down their offices. We have sealed their funds. We have sealed their offices, closing their funds. We have arrested their people, both the leaders. So this is what we’ve done.

Now, unfortunately, the world talks of some people having been let [go]. There is a legal process on the ground. When something happens, you take drastic measures, you take people in, according to the law, which allows arresting people. But the law does not allow keeping people under detention without their trial. And the trial is not possible without evidence. So we must understand that. If we’ve taken 500 people, that doesn’t mean that each of those 500 is to be tried and punished. If there’s evidence, by all means we would like to try them and punish them.

Even when we are talking about action against al Qaeda, several times, the people crossing through our borders, we got hold of a number of people. But even the joint interrogation with the coalition, with the United States, and our own people interrogating, many are found innocent and they are let [go]. That doesn’t mean you have taken people and each one of them has to be arrested, and if any one of them is let [go], that we are backtracking. It doesn’t mean that at all. We are not backtracking.

Let me assure you, there is no backtracking on what I said on 12th January. What happened against the French, we moved against these very organizations because we thought that, maybe, again they are involved. And we picked up people and we are trying to interrogate and investigate. But that doesn’t mean that everyone we get in is the man who was involved in the attack on the French. So those who are not, they are cleared, and declared [innocent], and they are let [go]. So you must understand that there is a legal process going on in the country, which I cannot violate. This is where we stand.

On the consequences of mobilisation against India on the campaign against al Qaeda in the Tribal Areas:
Yes. We wanted to move – actually, these areas where no troops were allowed for over a century. Never have people moved into that area. And I would request Washington Post to give us the credit, that this is the first time that this government has moved in. Our forces moved into areas where nobody went. No British troops went into those areas. And we have gone in. We’ll take the credit for that. We moved in the Frontier Corps. And we moved in the army. And we have got the willing cooperation of the people of that area.

Now, this is the biggest point. They have allowed us to come in. And we are doing a lot to pacify that area, to have reconstruction and rehabilitation afterwards in that area, so that people accept us. The people are very much with us in telling us if there is any al Qaeda activity there, any foreign activity, any foreigners in that area. They are with us. I am very sure of that. There may be some who may be sympathetic towards them. But I am 100 percent sure that the majority have assured us that we will tell you, and we have even laid down the rules of the game of how much fine there will be, and how much punishment there will be, if anyone is harboring anyone from outside. This is the agreement between us and those people, the tribals. This is a great achievement that we’ve got. There should be no suspicion around this by anyone.

Now. The issue is, to answer your question now, the east, and what happened in the east. Yes, we are very concerned. And whatever our regular troops there, we have stalled it for the moment. We haven’t moved them out. But we have stalled the additional induction. We were going in a big way. We have stalled that all right. And if the tension rises, we will have to move them to the eastern border. We haven’t done it as yet.

On whether the infilteration has stopped: I repeat: There is nothing happening on the Line of Control. That is what I would like to repeat. And I would like to repeat again: Reciprocation is extremely important. And reciprocation, again, is not de-escalation, because that appears – and I told this even to Mr. Chris Patten [the European Union’s commissioner for external affairs] – we are not bothered about escalation. If they think they are doing us a favor by de-escalating, please don’t do this favor for us. I would say, we are doing them a favor by de-escalating ourselves. So this is no favor. Nobody is doing anybody a favor. If at all, we are doing a favor to our respective countries by de-escalating. So let that not be a favor to us.

On what India might be trying to accomplish:
We are very clear, whether the world believes it or not, and I would ask you to make the world believe it. They want to destabilize Pakistan. There is no doubt in our minds. They have their own agenda on Kashmir. They don’t want to see the realities on the ground in Kashmir, where not one man in Kashmir would like to be with India. I am100 percent sure of that. Let them have an election today. Not one man would want to be India.

They are not seeing this reality, and they want to suppress this movement, this freedom struggle which is their right in accordance with a United Nations Security Council resolution. They want to suppress this. With all their military might, with all the atrocities – more than 70,000 people are dead now – this is one thing that they want to achieve. They want to isolate Kashmir and then crush whatever is happening with all their force. Secondly – their second aim – is to destabilize me, my government, and Pakistan. Destabilize us economically and politically and diplomatically. This is what they want to achieve.

On whether India wants a stable, modernizing Pakistan as its neighbor:
No, sir, not at all. Not at all. This is what they say. They keep saying that. No, sir, this is not what they want. They want a subservient Pakistan which remains subservient to them. They don’t believe in sovereign equality. They believe in their own superiority in the region. They’ve done this with all countries of the region. They are arrogant and they want to impose their will on every country in the region. If I was to even say that they want to bully every country in this region.

Pakistan, fortunately, or unfortunately for them, is the only country which is a thorn in their side. We want to live in peace. But we want to live in peace with our sovereignty guaranteed, with our honor and dignity not compromised. We will not compromise it. We will never compromise. So if they are prepared to accept this reality, we will live in peace, there will be peace in the region. They don’t want this. They don’t want to accept this reality. And that is the conflict between India and Pakistan.

On circumstances where he’d consider using nuclear weapons:
This is a – it is such a question which I wouldn’t like to even imagine, frankly, that we come to a stage where this is due. But let me give an assessment that this stage will never come. And I would like to give my views on this. Because the whole world thinks that India has very large armed forces. They keep talking of punishing us, going across the border, “We’ve given two weeks to them,” “We’ve given two months to them.” Let me tell you that we don’t accept this kind of gimmick.

Pakistan is no Iraq. India is no United States. We have forces. They follow a strategy of deterrence. And we are very capable of deterring them. And in case that deterrence fails, we are very capable of an offensive defense. Our forces are capable of offensive defense. These words are very important. We are not only on the defensive. We’ll take the offensive into Indian territory. That must be very clear to the Indians.

Let me add to this. At the moment, if there is anything that they do across the Line of Control, there are thousands, hundreds of thousands of people in Kashmir, Azad Kashmir, our part of Kashmir, who are demanding to be armed. And they will be inside Kashmir. If they think this is going to be a battle between two forces alone, Pakistan will be defended by every man in Pakistan. And this will be such – it is going to unleash such dynamics in this area that their forces will be engulfed by people inside Kashmir who will rise, they have already risen, and people on this side of Kashmir, who are telling me, that you be out, we will take Kashmir.

Let me also tell you that there are 150,000 at the moment – roughly – retired army soldiers in Kashmir. In Azad Kashmir. They are from our army. They are retired soldiers who have retired from service over all these years. This is the dynamic, the reality on [the]ground. And they are all brothers and kin across the border, in Kashmir. They want to fight for them. So such dynamics will be unleashed if they ever attempt to cross the Line of Control, which maybe even I may not be able to control.

And Mr. Vajpayee must know these realities. Their military analysts and their political analysts must know these realities. So we are very strong on the ground. If they think anything other than this, they are miscalculating. Miscalculations in the military field can lead to blunders. This is my message to them. This is the reality on ground. So, coming to your question, I really don’t think we will ever reach that stage, and I only hope that we – I hope and pray that we will never reach that stage. It’s too unthinkable.

On exchange of messages vis a vis the international community:
Exactly almost the same [as I have been saying here]. That there is nothing happening across the Line of Control. And this issue of reciprocation. And frankly, and I’ve said, there’s so much of chest thumping that goes on from the other side, this rhetoric. We have been restrained. And I’ve said this. The amount of restraint that we have shown – that I have personally shown – but continuously, there is a jabbing at us, a rhetoric, which is annoying. Which is, if not responded, if I may say, frankly, we would be humiliated.

As if we are nothing. As if they are very great, they are very powerful. And here we are, we’ll get a spanking from them. This is not the case. And this [is] visible even now. We have fired, we have tested our missiles. They have tested more than10 missiles in the past months, I would say, over the year. So we have tested our missiles. We are not saying anything. We have informed them. And they were honor-bound not to raise a hue and cry. When they tested their missiles, did we raise a hue and cry? They were honor-bound now to do that, but they come out, “This doesn’t impress us.” Who’s telling them? We’re not trying to impress you. We’re doing something to try to ensure our own security.

So this kind of rhetoric goes on, and this is what I have complained, really. “Antics,” yes. “We are not impressed by these antics.” I didn’t say these are antics, so you don’t need to be impressed. And we are also not impressed by their antics, giving us two weeks and two months. We are not impressed. So this the message. Sorry, I deviated from your question. But basically, reciprocation, which is a very important factor if we are to move forward and bring peace to this region.

On reciprocation:
I said that, renewal of dialogue. And in which we can discuss all issues, and Kashmir. And in fact we achieved that in Agra. But it was just unfortunate that in their own areas, behind the scenes, there were some things that went on. Other than that, reciprocation for the people of Kashmir. There are such atrocities going on there, which the world doesn’t know. Because the international media is not there.

The international media must go in. Human rights organizations must go in. I would even say, okay, monitoring on the Line of Control by neutral organizations, the United Nations. Let’s beef them up and let them come in. Then atrocity reduction. Now this is a vague term, but in concrete form, I say as a step one, they should leave the cities and towns, and as a step two, the forces should be reduced. They have 750,000 troops there, carrying out all kinds of activities, like rapes. This is the kind of thing that is going on there, other than killings, and burning of houses. This is the reciprocation I am talking about

On whether India sponsors terrorist attacks on Pakistan’s soil:
Yes, indeed. I’m very sure. I’m very sure. There are so many bomb attacks here. These attacks on our mosques. Well, I wouldn’t say that all of them could be inspired from abroad. I am pretty sure that our sectarian divide is such an issue that it can be easily exploitable. So this is the area where they exploit. Wherever there is an ethnic division which can be exploited, wherever there is a sectarian division which can be exploited, these are the two areas which they have exploited all along in the past years. All along. And we know that. We know that there have been training camps across on their borders when there were certain ethnic differences within our society. They have been involved with that. We are very sure that they carried this out. . . .

On what he’d say in the May 27 speech:
Well, the message, frankly, you ask an important question. It has to be – we want to avoid war. We want to bring peace into the region. So therefore the message is to be addressed to the outside world. The message has to be addressed to India. The message has to be addressed to my own people.

On speechwriters: I don’t write speeches. I speak with points, and then I let my mind flow free. So that becomes a little more natural, and I think it will become more natural. And you can show more feelings. With something that you’re reading, feelings never come out.

On the timing of the speech:
We’re still discussing it. The problem is, I was even, I thought I’d come in the evening [Saturday], but I think there’s too much rhetoric on, the missiles and such, so I think I’ll delay it a bit. Maybe not tomorrow – if you do it tomorrow, the newspapers are not there. Maybe the day after tomorrow. But within the next two or three days I will speak to the nation. Let me see how I go through this complicated message. This is a complicated region. International issues are involved, regional issues are involved, and domestic issues. All three joined in one. It becomes a very. . . .

On the possibility of a solution between India and Pakistan:
It’s possible in two ways. There are two possibilities. Number one, either we submit, and we accept them as a big brother, and we do whatever they want. They dominate, they will dominate our foreign policy and our economic policy. This is what they do exactly with other countries, these two elements. So either we accept this, or they be magnanimous enough to let our countries with sovereign equality, and they accept Pakistan as a sovereign, equal state. Unless they change this attitude of theirs, one of these two things has to happen, to bring this harmony. Otherwise, it’s difficult. Otherwise, we need to grow within this conflict situation.

On whether the Americans can help more than in the past:
Yes. They’re the only ones who can help. They must help. They can bring normalcy here. They must resolve this dispute. And they must ensure balance in this region. Balance is when two opposites cannot be met. India does not want to give up its domineering and hegemonistic attitude. And we don’t want to give up, we don’t want to submit. So therefore, the only answer in this situation is to have a balancing power, a balancing conventional power. It can easily be done. But that must be maintained. So that there is balance and peace.

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