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PRESS CONFERENCE

’I Want To Put An End To This Controversy’

Thursday 3 June 2004

In his first major press-conference covering the foreign policy in general and the round of rhetoric with Pakistan in particular, the new EAM is irritated and once again reiterates and explains his recent articulations on the Simla Agreement and much more. Full text of the press conference transcript.

in Outlook India, Tuesday, June 1, 2004.

OUTLOOK WEB BUREAU

Official Spokesman: It is our great pleasure to welcome the Hon’ble External Affairs Minister of India Shri Natwar Singh for his first Press Conference at Shastri Bhawan Media Centre. We will request the Hon’ble Minister to make his opening remarks and then we will go to the questions. I request you to please wait to be invited to ask your questions and introduce yourselves when you ask the questions. Sir...?

Natwar Singh: I am grateful to you all that you have come here this evening for this press conference. Before I say anything, I want to tell you that we have agreed with Pakistan that the officials of the two sides will be meeting in New Delhi on June 19 and 20 for the expert level dialogue on the nuclear Confidence Building Measures and on June 27-28 for the Foreign Secretary level talks (June 19-20 expert level dialogue on nuclear Confidence Building Measures and June 27-28 for the Foreign Secretary level talks). So I am sorry to disappoint those who thought that the dialogue was not going ahead.?

The Policy Planning (group) with China was due to meet on the 16th, but regrettably, the Representative has fallen ill. The Strategic Dialogue at the level of Vice Ministers will also be held shortly and Special Representatives of India and China on the boundary question will have their next meeting in the very near future. And it gives me great pleasure to announce that my friend and colleague J.N. Dixit has been appointed the National Security Advisor and will be replacing Shri Brajesh Mishra as our interlocutor with China on the border question. My first foreign visit will be to Nepal on the 4th and 5th of this month.?

The Prime Minister of Nepal called me the other day; I had the good fortune to know him for a number of years, and asked if I could come to Nepal at my earliest convenience. Bearing in mind the extremely close relations that we have with Nepal, I should be leaving on the 4th.?

Now, I will just spend 5 minutes to tell you a thing or two. I have returned to the Ministry of External Affairs after fourteen-and-a-half years. In these fourteen-and-a-half years the world has changed a great deal. We have all changed. India has changed. I have changed. The international agenda has changed. The Soviet Union does not exist. It is an international fact with which the world has yet to come to terms with. The fallout still continues. It is a new situation. The other very big change is that when I joined the Foreign Service 51 years ago the dictum was that an accomplished diplomat thinks twice before saying nothing. Now the reverse is true. We have bilateral diplomacy, we have multilateral diplomacy and we have media diplomacy. The intrusion of the media, its influence and power is very great. It is irreversible and all diplomats and foreign policy makers have to come to terms with this reality. We will do our best within our limitation to have a transparent, sustained working relationship with you. The impact that you make cannot be minimized.?

It is also a fact that aging people like myself are not media-savvy. I am aware of this and therefore I try and avoid appearing on the media. There are other colleagues of mine who are very media-savvy. They will be at your service. Like most things in the world it is a mixed blessing. You expose the weaknesses of the government, the injustices done to society, the treatment of women, cruelty to children. You also, not intentionally, unintentionally, sometimes, trivialize serious matters. I have two grandchildren who are seven and eight. They see a great deal of television. They are now beginning to think in images and not words. The world has to come to terms with this. I do not want to lecture you.?

Now, since taking over, I invited the representatives of the ASEAN and SAARC countries in Delhi to meet me.

For the last two days, I have been having discussions with our representatives in SAARC and in the ASEAN region. I have also called our Ambassadors from Iran, Afghanistan and Nepal. As you know, I have had a large number of telephone calls. The first one was by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, which I appreciate very greatly and reciprocate his sentiments. His Majesty the King of Bhutan also was also gracious enough to call me. You know the rest of the Foreign Ministers who called me.?

Now, the foreign policy of the Manmohan Singh Government has been spelt out in our Common Minimum Programme. We attach the highest importance to having the closest, acrimony-free, multifaceted relationship with the United States of America. The US Ambassador was the first Head of Mission in Delhi that I received. We spent an hour and we covered all areas in which India and America are engaged constructively. I also said to the Ambassador that since we are friends, it is our responsibility and duty that we have our meetings in a frank and friendly manner. The Manmohan Singh Government will strengthen, deepen, widen our relationship. There are differences, but these differences will not be aired publicly and will be addressed diplomatically and tactfully.

The agenda with the United States is extensive. I shall not go into details. All that I want to say is that the impression that there might be a change in the Manmohan Singh Government towards United States is unfounded. Our relationship will be based on mutual respect, mutual understanding, mutual accommodation; cooperation, not confrontation; goodwill, not growling.?

Now, let me come to Indo-Pak relations. A great deal of excitement has been engineered in the last few days. Having served in Pakistan as an Ambassador more than twenty years ago - in those days Pakistan was not a member of the Commonwealth, so we were Ambassadors, we have just now supported Pakistan’s re-entry into the Commonwealth and we are supporting them in the ARF, in ASEAN - I am familiar with the complexities, the intricacies, the suspicion, the emotion that goes into our relationship with Pakistan. It is our endeavour that the future of Indo-Pak relations no longer lies in the past. We cannot forget the past, but neither should we be the prisoners of past.?

The Prime Minister, the Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance Shrimati Sonia Gandhi, and I, have repeatedly said that we want good neighbourly, amicable, cordial relations with Pakistan. The past has been strewn with booby-traps on the ground and high-tension wires in the air. We want to put an end to that. The relationship will be based on trust, not mistrust; on frankness, not fear. The 21st century, the millennium provides an excellent occasion to come up with creative ideas so that our two countries can be mutually benefited, that we can address the paramount important matters of poverty, hunger and disease in both countries.?

Yesterday, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan issued a statement in which he said, "I have just come back from a visit to the United States. I have seen statements made by some Indian leaders regarding leadership between Pakistan and India, and the Kashmir issue. These can be reduced to four points."?

His points were: "Borders cannot be altered." No public announcement has been made by any Indian leader about this. "No plebiscite." I thought this issue was dead many many years ago. Nobody has repeated it. "Relations will be guided by the Simla Agreement, full stop." What I have said now, what I have been saying for many many years is that we consider the Simla Agreement of 2nd July 1972 as a bedrock of our bilateral relations. But our relations with Pakistan now will be governed within the framework of the Simla Agreement, the Lahore Declaration, and the press statement issued on the 6th of January by India and Pakistan in Islamabad.

This fact is totally ignored, including by the Indian media. At every meeting I have said this. But they are stuck to the Simla Agreement, and so are we. We are not going to change our attitude to Simla Agreement. But it is a continuous chain; we are all not running a static or sterile foreign policy, we are approaching it in a pragmatic, empirical manner. We are fully conscious of the realities, geo-political, in our region and that is why I have called the Heads of Missions of the SAARC and of ASEAN because we attach very very great importance to this part of the world. Under the changing world it is essential that we get to know each other. So, I want to put an end to this controversy. The fourth point was: "Sino-Indian model should be followed." No formal proposal by the Government of India has been made. This model has been talked about for a number of years. The matter of the LoC becoming Indian boundary has been talked about for a number of years and by responsible people including the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Our Government has made no statement, policy statement, about this being the model.

I was asked, I have had a lot of meetings with the press, as to how I would look at it. I have said that we have just taken over. We attach the highest importance to our relations with Pakistan. We want to solve all the problems. The Simla Agreement in Paragraph 6 provides the mechanism for carrying this forward, so does Lahore, so does January 6. People have, I said, talked about the China Model. When Rajiv Gandhi and Deng Xiaoping met in December 1988, Deng Xiaoping said, ?You know when your grandfather came here in 1954, I was Secretary-General of Communist Party of China.’ He was number six then. And he said, ?You must have been very young’ - Mr. Rajiv Gandhi was ten years old then. And he said, ?Well, we are friends now, we will discuss everything. We know the border problem, we will put this aside for the time being, and go on to the other areas.’?

I said that people have talked about this kind of a model for even this dispute. I was not making a policy statement, because I am not authorized to do it. I was speaking in broad terms, looking at what you can do. There are any number of models that we can take with regard to this. But the objective is to have a relationship which is friction-free, crisis-free. Therefore, we have welcomed this changed atmosphere. The Congress party gave its broad support to the Vajpayee Government’s Pakistan policy. That policy was not consistent.

On the 16th of May 2003, Mr. Vajpayee said in Sikkim, "I will not talk to Pakistan till there is cross-border terrorism." Two days later, in Srinagar he said, "I want to stretch my hand of friendship." We said, "Well done! We have been saying so." But what happened in forty-eight hours? At one stage he said, "Aar paar ki ladai". In my humble opinion, it was unnecessary to use this verbal overkill, especially when you have no intention of doing it.?

So, through you I want to assure our friends in Pakistan, and everywhere, that we are committed to a very deep involvement with them on every possible issue. We will discuss with them whatever they want. We were not in favour of stopping cricket matches, and we said so. We were not in favour of stopping over-flying of planes. We were not in favour of the train being stopped. We were not in favour of bus being stopped. I said, "Yes, they have attacked our Parliament. We can stop the dialogue. But people-to-people contacts should continue. And the diplomatic door should never be shut. Otherwise, how do you go ahead with any kind of discussion?" So, we will discuss everything with them and we will do it in a very very friendly manner. And we want to reciprocate the friendly sentiments of the Foreign Minister of Pakistan when he talked to me.?

It is also our vision that SAARC should become an active and not a dormant body.

The SAARC Charter lays down that no bilateral issues will be discussed. We sincerely hope that in the spirit that is now between India and Pakistan, bilateral issues will not be raised and they, I am told, assured us that they will not raise bilateral issues in the ASEAN and the ARF. We welcome this. My vision is that there should be a SAARC cricket team of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and they should take on the world. My vision is that there will be a day - may not be in my life time, because I am living on borrowed time, anybody who is above 70 years in India is in the waiting room of the Almighty - I hope there will be a day when like ASEAN, SAARC will have a common foreign policy, common defence policy, common economic policy, free border travel, exchange of scholars, students, newspapers, books.?

Our Government will lay very high importance to the Islamic world. There are 130 crore Muslims in the world - 1.3 billion. There are 56 Islamic countries in the world. We have very good relations with all of them. We respect their sentiments and we greatly value the reception that our people working in these countries, Gulf countries, are receiving, and doing so much for our country and for the countries they are living in.?

I will be going to China on the 21st and 22nd to Qingdao for an Asian Cooperation Dialogue with the Foreign Ministers of about twenty countries there. The Minister of Finance would have gone, but he is extremely busy with the Budget which will be presented in early July.?

I began my diplomatic career in China more than 50 years ago, and spent a year studying Chinese in the Peking University, and I lived there for two years. On the 10th, I will be leaving for Oman and UAE. From there, I am going to Geneva to meet forty of our Ambassadors in Europe. If we were to call them to Delhi, it would be a very expensive exercise. So, I have decided to go with minimum staff. The meeting will take place in Geneva in our Office of the Permanent Representative to the UN, and not in a five-star hotel. I shall be traveling Executive Class. If anybody wants to upgrade me, I will not resist it, but I will not encourage it either.?

Thank you.?

Question :? You have said that the Vajpayee Government was not consistent with its approach on Pakistan. Where will you pick up the threads? Secondly, you said that you would give high importance to our ties with Islamic world. What will be your attitude towards Israel??

Natwar Singh: First of all, let me say two things. We were not in favour of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. India had suggested that there will be two - Palestine and Israel - but that was not accepted by the UN. But we recognized the State of Israel and there was a Consul in Bombay for over fifty years, since Panditji’s time. Then, in 1992, it was the Narasimha Rao Government which raised our relationship to the Ambassadorial level. We value our relations with Israel. They have a great deal to offer to us, they have a great deal to offer to the world. But our relations with Israel will not be at the expense of sacrificing the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people. And, if I may say so, when Mr. Sharon was here and Mrs. Gandhi called on him, Dr. Manmohan Singh and I were also present, and we put across our views and said that our ties with the Palestinians preceded our Independence. All we are saying is, and even the friends of Israel are saying, the United States is saying, that what is happening now is not acceptable because the Roadmap presented by Bush and Blair has got stalled. And to expect that you can find a solution of Palestine without Mr. Arafat is, in our judgment, unrealistic.?

Question :? The Army Chief has said that four thousand Jehadis are waiting to cross over the border. What will be your Government’s consistent policy on cross-border terrorism, since you have said that NDA Government had an inconsistent policy??

Natwar Singh : I do not want to use this occasion to relive the past because it is pointless. There was cross-border terrorism when Mr. Vajpayee went to Lahore, and there was cross-border terrorism when Musharraf sahib came to Agra. They attacked our Parliament. We are totally opposed to terrorism - cross-border, internal, external, in every way. Our American friends discovered terrorism on 9/11. We have suffered from it, 60,000 people have died in Jammu and Kashmir, two Prime Ministers have lost their lives because of terrorism. So, nobody has suffered more. If there is any attempt to cross the borders of India, or do anything, they will be properly dealt with. I think, I will mention this matter to my colleague the Minister of Defence, but we are aware of it.?

Question :? But the dialogue will go on whatever happens...

Natwar Singh: I have just told you. The dialogue will not be stalled at all. There are people who are interested that this should happen, and I do not want to give them any comfort and encouragement. I have said this before. "Natwar Singh is a hawk" - I do not understand this language of hawks and doves. We run a foreign policy establishment, not a bird sanctuary.

Question :? President Musharraf has said on several occasions since January 6th, that unless there is rapid progress ...(Inaudible)... core issue of Kashmir ...(Inaudible)...?

Natwar Singh: I think they are starting these talks in the next few days on these subjects and there are several occasions in the next months when the Foreign Ministers of the two countries will be able to meet both bilaterally and in multilateral fora, and we will take it step by step. We are not shying away from discussing anything. I mean, we will discuss with them Jammu and Kashmir, we will discuss the nuclear question, we will discuss cross-border terrorism, we will discuss their attitude to Kashmir in the OIC. Even now a resolution is being prepared there on Kashmir. We will tell them that since we are friends, please have a fresh look. We have not opposed your going into the Commonwealth. We have asked you to come and join the ASEAN organization (ARF). We should cooperate in the Commonwealth, in the United Nations, in all these places because if we can work together, it helps. But if the approach is that without Kashmir nothing can be discussed, then we are going to have difficulties because we too have a point of view on Jammu and Kashmir. Because, if this answer is, as you know, unless this is solved nothing happens. Mr. Vajpayee has tried, all Governments have tried. We have never said aar paar ki ladai. We have not made any conditions that, if cross-border terrorism does not stop. It is not stopping anywhere in the world. Talks are going on. What is happening in Iraq? People are still talking, trying to find a solution. The Arab League has met, other colleagues have met. So, this idea that you get stuck in a mindset is not helpful. I say this with the greatest respect for the distinguished President of Pakistan.?

Question :? General Musharraf has invited Mrs. Sonia Gandhi to Pakistan. I want to know what is the thinking of the Government on this? What would be the status of that visit??

Natwar Singh:? As you know, Shrimati Sonia Gandhi is the Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Alliance. If she will be invited to Pakistan, it is my personal hope that she will accept because I know the reception she will get there. When her son and daughter went, 50,000 Pakistanis received them at the airport. There will be warmth and feeling.

It depends on her timetable, it depends upon the timetable of the Pakistan Government, and an appropriate mechanism will be evolved by which no protocol problems are ...(Inaudible)... After all, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi were treated like Heads of Government and it was deeply appreciated by the people of India and the people of Pakistan. So, the timetable, the details, all this we will work out. Let me assure you that we have some experience of dealing with such matters. Every care will be taken with regard to protocol, the composition, the timing, the subjects, everything.?

Question :? What is your Government’s stand on sending Indian troops to Iraq??

Natwar Singh: ...as the Leader of Opposition and the President of Congress, Shrimati Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter to Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji saying that it was being heard that sending Indian troops to Iraq was being considered. She said that there should be a national consensus on this and that it should be discussed in Parliament by all parties. If our forces were being sent, under whose banner were they being sent? If it was under the banner of the United Nations, and if the United Nations’ Resolutions were acceptable to all, then they should surely be sent. We had sent our troops to Korea, we sent them to Congo, Cyprus, Lebanon, Gaza, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Kosovo. On the new Security Council Resolution by the US and UK, which has come in the last few days, they have taken our advice also. Iran’s Foreign Minister spoke to me in this regard. China’s Foreign Minister spoke to me in this regard. Other people have also spoken. We have seen the Resolution; it has not been presented formally to the Security Council. Though we are not Members of the Security Council, we are greatly interested in it. So, after seeing it, it will be known as to what and whose jurisdiction will be there - whether it would be considered a request of the new Government that is formed in Iraq or that of the UN; or, whether the overall command would be that of the US and UK. We will discuss all these issues with our Arab and Islamic friends and seek their opinion as to whether we should send our troops or not.

Question :? Will you send our troops if the overall control is that of the US and UK??

Natwar Singh: Let us first wait for the Resolution because if it clearly says that the overall charge and command would be theirs, then it will have to be discussed and it will not be easy. But we hope that the Resolution will be based on consensus, and because of that Resolution, the sad state of affairs in Iraq would end soon.?

Question :? There has been news that Mr. Douglas Feith, US Under Secretary, who has come to India for the Indo-US Defence Policy Group Meeting, wanted to meet you to have an audience with you...

Natwar Singh: See, this ?audience’ is an out of date word. We are a democracy. Audience used to be given during the days of Sultanates.?

Question :? He wanted to meet you. Secondly, are you satisfied with the pace of US’s assistance to India under the Glide path??

Natwar Singh: The pace will increase. He has been holding talks with our Defence Secretary. If he wants to meet me, and if I have time, I will meet him after taking your advice.?

Question :? When is Mrs. Sonia Gandhi expected to visit Pakistan? Will it be this year or next year??

Natwar Singh: No date has been fixed yet.?

Question :? The nuclear assets are perceived to be an asset in terms of lending muscle to your foreign policy. Do you actually see it as an asset or do you see it as a right royal mess as widely perceived by the common man??

Natwar Singh: We could have become a nuclear weapon power in 1974.

But we decided not to cross the nuclear threshold because we were getting all the advantages because the people who should know knew that we have the technology, we have the expertise to do it. Now, when on the 11th of May and 13th of May 1998, the Vajpayee Government added Pokharan-II, it became quite clear to me, having been Ambassador to Pakistan, that it is a matter of time that Pakistan will follow suit.?

One of the things that went wrong is the reasons that the Prime Minister gave for having these explosions were given to President Clinton - that we were expecting a threat from Pakistan and China. The next day the letter was leaked to the Washington Post/New York Times. I asked the Prime Minister in Lok Sabha because I was a Member of Lok Sabha, as to how did this letter leak and who drafted it. As far as I remember, he said that he did not have any answer for that. You can check the Parliamentary records, I do not have the exact words. Instead of giving the reason what he should have done, if he had consulted the five Prime Ministers and other people, he should have said that the United States, Russia, France, China, Britain have carried out tests, you are carrying out tests, France has just carried out tests, China had just then done, so India also as an independent country has every right to keep its nuclear technology up-to-date. We do not have to give an explanation to the President of the United States. If any explanation was to be given it should have been given to the people of India and to the Parliament of India. But, no special session was called from the 11th to the 27th. On 28th, it was I who announced in the Lok Sabha that Pakistan has exploded a bomb.

You talked about the advantages. If you see the manifesto and the Common Minimum Programme we are now both nuclear powers and so is China. So, I think the three countries should get together and work out a common nuclear doctrine so that all speculation, all danger, all that disappears because the responsibility as a nuclear power is enormous. Up till 1998, this dimension was absent from our foreign policy, diplomacy, security and defence policy. Now, this is an extremely important part of our security and foreign policy as it is of Pakistan and of China. That is why this has to be dealt with priority and with greatest seriousness. You simply cannot talk about these matters in terms of scoring points. The matter is too grave.

Question :? My question is about Sri Lanka and India. The negotiations between LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government are scheduled to begin in a few months. The Sri Lanka Foreign Minister was here, he held talks with you. The Sri Lankans are keen that India should get involved in the peace process. LTTE is a banned organization and the ban has been extended by two years. India has been asking for the extradition of Prabhakaran. In view of the fact that Sonia Gandhi has forgiven Nalini, there is a lot of change. Is there any new thinking in the new Government that let bygones be bygones and we will not go after Prabhakaran and let the two sides talk so that a final solution can be found??

Natwar Singh: With regard to the ban on the LTTE, the Home Minister has already said that it is being extended for two years. With regard to the other matter about the head of the LTTE, he has been mentioned in the Supreme Court as one of the people involved in the assassination of Shri Rajiv Gandhi. We have always maintained that he should be extradited and so has the Vajpayee Government.

Now that the talks are going on, we do not want to give this matter a priority so that there is any impediment to the talks because we want that the agony and tragedy of Sri Lanka should come to an end and the territorial integrity, sovereignty and unity of Sri Lanka is maintained, and the legitimate rights of all the people of Sri Lanka are respected including the Tamils and the minorities and the Sinhalas who are in the majority. We certainly hope that with goodwill on both sides, I think they are taking assistance from Norway, that an acceptable solution will be found. You know the economic growth of Sri Lanka twenty years ago was almost 10 per cent a year. You would have had another Malaysia or Singapore.?

Question :? In the era when you were at the top in India’s foreign policy, India was the leader of Non-Aligned Movement. ...(Inaudible)...Do you see any possibility of reviving third-world solidarity and NAM??

Natwar Singh: Your question has several dimensions. The questions that you have put are very complicated. I will try and respond to them in simple language. Do not mix up the Non-Aligned Movement with non-alignment. India was non-aligned from 1947 to 1961. In September 1961, the first Non-Aligned Summit took place in Belgrade. The Non-Aligned Movement needs renovation. In some ways reinventing because the international agenda that the Non-Aligned Movement was able to influence in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s no longer exists.?

The Non-Aligned Movement was in the forefront of the fight against colonialism, imperialism, apartheid. Fortunately, the world has run out of colonies. South Africa now, thanks to the moral grandeur of the life of Nelson Mandela, is a rainbow society. Imperialism has disappeared. The new agenda is terrorism, AIDS, ecology, environment, poverty, hunger, least developed African and other countries suffering the excessive influence of the IMF and the World Bank. These are the issues which should be on the agenda of the Non-Aligned Movement in the opening decades of the 21st century.?

Number two, we are today non-aligned. Jawaharlal Nehru, at the Haripura Session in 1938, had said, and he used the terminology of those days, that an Independent India will not be a member either of the Capitalist Camp or the Communist Camp. This is what we did. This idea that you have approached Soviets - it just happened that in the United Nations, on matters of colonialism, racialism and on imperialism, the Soviets voted with us.?

Take Goa. We liberated Goa. The whole of Africa and Asia was rejoicing. You read the speeches of the delegates of the United States and the United Kingdom who were supporting Portugal to say that Goa was a part of Portugal. Soviet Union vetoed the resolution that the liberation of Goa is illegitimate exercise of India. We waited 14 years.?

Now, the other spin is how is non-alignment relevant when the Cold War has ended. Well, the Warsaw Pact has been demolished, disappeared, Cold War has ended. If non-alignment is irrelevant, how is NATO relevant? NATO has been extended from the Atlantic Coast to the borders of Russia. Who is the enemy? It is a legitimate question to ask that instead of disbanding, you have expanded NATO. You do not need NATO to deal with terrorism. So, all my friends who ask me that you are out-of-date and you are living in the Cold War, you are cold-warrior, I have great respect for the shrines of other people’s minds. But some people have no minds, so there are no shrines there.?

Question :? You had mentioned that Pakistan had passed some resolution in OIC. My information is that there are six resolutions, not one. Can you elaborate??

Natwar Singh: Our relations with the OIC Members are very good. Many of our friends in OIC try to see that such irrelevant issues are not raised.

There are six anti-India resolutions in the next meeting that is going to take place in Islamabad. I hope that our friends there will tell them that when you are talking and there are calls for friendship from India, then this will not help in improvement of bilateral relations.?

Question :? When you talk about calls for friendship, yesterday Musharraf sahib phoned Vajpayee sahib and told him how much he was impressed with his initiative for dialogue...

Natwar Singh: We too were impressed.?

Question :? He had more friendship with him...

Natwar Singh: If? Musharraf sahib wants to have friendship with us, we too will have good friendship with him. When I had met him he had said that he knew me. He said that when I was Ambassador in Pakistan, I had given a lecture in Defence College where he was also present. I was Ambassador then and I did not remember what the General sahib was at that time.?

See, these matters cannot be personalized. My view is that you also know the reasons for the friendly steps that have been taken. "Is qadr jo ishq hua, wajah kya thi uski". The hope was that this Government will come back to power. But it did not happen and the game was spoiled. For any Government to put all its eggs in one single basket is a risky business. In India we have a system, we have a Parliament, we have the press, we have public opinion and we have a broad sanction for our foreign policy among the people of India. This is not the case in our neighbouring state. That is why there have been attempts on the life of the President of Pakistan on this issue. I would like the General to live for 150 years. But God forbid, if something happens, where is the back up in the Pakistan establishment to carry this thing forward? We have the back up. We have the people’s sanction. We have just been re-elected. We have a Parliament. The leadership has made a calculated decision that this has to go forward, and we will do what we can. So, when the President of Pakistan rang up the Prime Minister, we were very happy. When he rang up Mrs. Gandhi, we were very happy. When he spoke to Mr. Vajpayee, the Pakistan High Commissioner was good enough to inform us. And we said it was a very good thing if they talk to each other.?

Question :? In Saudi Arabia, eight Indians were killed. There are over 3.5 million Indians in Saudi Arabia. What is the Government going to do for the security of Indians living there??

Natwar Singh: This was the Al Khobar terrorist attack. When our Heads of Missions from ASEAN and SAARC met yesterday, we observed a minute of silence in the memory. We are in touch with the Saudi Government. We do not believe that the Indians were targets but they were caught under the circumstances because they were living in the same hotel. One of them escaped. There is no panic among the large Indian community in Saudi Arabia. We will give full compensation to the families of people who have lost their lives. Everybody regrets it.?

Question :? You are going to China soon. What is your judgment of the current status of Sino-Indian relations? Since you studied and worked in China, you must be quite familiar with the Chinese, do you think that in the next five years under your leadership the border issues between India and China will be resolved??

Natwar Singh: The leadership is that of Manmohan Singh, and I want to thank you for mentioning that this Government will last five years. We hope so. The Special Representatives of the two Prime Ministers will meet shortly to discuss this and we are very appreciative of the constructive attitude of the People’s Republic of China in this regard. The formula was worked out during Mr. Gandhi’s visit and his talks with your great leader Mr.Deng Xiaoping. On the basis of that, as two mature countries, we will address this problem.

I want to tell you that in the 2000 years of history of Sino-Indian relations we have had only one conflict in 1962. If I may say so, an in-depth analysis of why that happened on both sides is yet to be done. So, we do not visualize any difficulty given the intensity of our close relations. Look at the trade. It is reaching really high figures - billions and billions of dollars. And this is because Mr. Deng Xiaoping said: keep this aside. The Indian companies are now very well present in China. Look at Ranbaxy. Look at dozens of others. I can tell you all that the Chinese Government has asked us if they could send people for training in IT to Bangalore. We said that we would welcome this. So our relations are extremely close. I was last in China in 1999 as a leader of the Congress delegation and I had the great good fortune of being received by Mr. Hu Jintao who is now the General Secretary and President of China. The sentiments that he expressed and the message that he has sent to the Prime Minister are very very encouraging and we fully reciprocate this.

Question :? You have said that we should not be prisoners of the past. Does that imply that India will be ready to accept LoC as international border if it comes to that? Secondly, given the fact that Sri Lanka has recently asked India to play a greater role, do you envisage India playing a more proactive role in the regional politics??

Natwar Singh: To your first question. This phrase is mine, I have used it. The future of Indo-Pak relations lies in the past, I did not mean that we should be prisoners and get into a groove. What I meant was that we have to look ahead and not let the past mindsets and prejudices affect our senses. This is not the past, this is the present. The LoC is very much there and we have got to address the problem.?

Question :? On LoC as international border...?

Natwar Singh: This is not a decision that I can take. There has to be a national consensus on it - that is a national consensus on both sides. The Parliament has to meet. The Pakistan Government has to agree. If the atmosphere changes in both countries, then we can look at it afresh.?

Question :? What about the proactive role...

Natwar Singh: No, I do not think that proactive is the right word. I had a very long talk with my old friend Lakshman Kadirgamar of Sri Lanka. What they meant by India’s role was - Can you give us humanitarian help? Can you give us hospitals, universities, roads, infrastructure? That kind of involvement. We said whatever we can do, we certainly will do because you are a neighbouring country. Your culture and ours are similar. While Buddhism is gone from India, Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country. We wish them all the best. I had really very very encouraging talks with him. He also met the Prime Minister and he has met other Ministers. We want to help Sri Lanka to find a solution to the ethnic problem. But we have also told them that India will not under any circumstances agree to Eelam. The sovereignty, territorial integrity, and unity of Sri Lanka must be maintained. They fully share this view.?

Question :? The Common Minimum Programme of your Government says that more importance will be given to multilateralism rather than unilateralism. Do you feel that there has been more tilt towards unilateralism??

Natwar Singh: Without naming any country, (there has been) weakening of the United Nations, bypassing the UN, new doctrines being invented which are not mentioned in the Charter. So, we want to emphasize multilateralism - that no country should be able to take unilateral decision for regime change or for any other reason.That is why this emphasis, and largely to make our contribution to strengthen the United Nations.

That is why I said it is very good and welcome development that the US and Britain are taking the Resolution to the Security Council. I think some credit must be here given to Colin Powell and Mr. Blair.?

Question :? What is your Government’s stand on Vajpayee Government’s most important document on strategic affairs - the nuclear doctrine? Do you accept it in toto? What will be your stand on no-first-use policy??

Natwar Singh: I think this question should be addressed by you to the National Security Advisor.?

Question :? You spoke about a multipolar world. The previous Government was very supportive of the anti-ballistic missile shield proposed by the US. Will your Government support that??

Natwar Singh: No, it was not supported by the previous Government. It was supported by a particular individual of that Government. I do not want to take the name. You know who he is.?

Question :? As External Affairs Minister, your first visit is going to be to Nepal. What will be your agenda??

Natwar Singh: I will holds talks there. That is why I am going there. We give so much importance to our relations. It is a neighbouring country. We have good relations. The situation there is frightening for them as well as for us. Otherwise, others will come and intervene. So, I will hold talks, I will meet the King and all parties. I will say that we are very concerned, that we want their well-being. But if the process of democracy that you had started comes to an end, more complex issues will come up, resolution of which will be very difficult.?

Question :? Just a follow up to what has already been asked. On missile defence, yes, an individual might have championed the case, but the previous Government was engaged in dialogue with the United States...(Inaudible)... Ballistic Missile Conference in Berlin ...(Inaudible)... Will the present Government keep up the tempo of engagement with the United States on Missile Defence given the kind of statements that were being made earlier. ...(Inaudible)...? Secondly, the UN Resolution that you have seen the draft of, very clearly stipulates that even the sub-component of the multinational force being designed to protect the UN operations will be under the control of the overall command of ...(Inaudible)... Under the circumstances, could you tell us if that language survives intact, will India then take part in this multinational/peacekeeping force??

Natwar Singh: Even a country like Spain has withdrawn its forces. Even a country like Honduras has withdrawn its forces. Even the Poles are having second thoughts.?

On Missile Defence, I am not really competent to say any thing because I think in a day or two, the Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs will be appointed. Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs - this is a matter which can only be discussed there because it is of extreme importance. We will look at it very very minutely and we will do what we think is right in the interests of our country.?

Question :? There was a conspicuous pro-US tilt in the last Government. Will there be a course correction now??

Natwar Singh:...during the visit of Mrs. Gandhi to Washington in 1982, at the Washington Press conference she was asked, ?Mrs. Gandhi! You have a tilt towards the Soviet Union.’ And she said, we do not have a tilt, we stand straight. We intend to follow Shrimati Gandhi.?

Question :? Just a follow up question on China. Would you say that your Government’s policy on China will be consistent? You have said that the Vajpayee Government’s policy was not consistent on Pakistan.Could you say the same for its policy on China, in view of the visit of Mr. Vajpayee to China last year, especially on the question of Tibet??

Natwar Singh: I know this was debated in the Rajya Sabha and I was the principal spokesman of the Congress party. We had welcomed his visit to China and we welcomed the outcome of the visit. When he made the statement in the Rajya Sabha on the visit, I took out the statement that he had made in 1989, few weeks after Mr. Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China. I read out his statement and he had said that when the Chinese leaders mentioned Tibet to Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi missed a great opportunity of putting across India’s point of view. And that Nehru had made a Himalayan blunder on Tibet. So I asked him, ?Prime Minister, you said this thing in this very House. Now, Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi made a blunder, a Himalayan blunder, what blunder did you make? A celestial blunder! Did you raise this issue or not?’ Yes. Then why did you raise it? And what was the answer? The answer was the same as Rajiv Gandhi was given ...(Inaudible)... You should have said that no we will not discuss Tibet with you, but you did. So, it is very good that you discussed Tibet with them. His statements are on record. I read them out to him. It is all very well now for you, Prime Minister, but you said it here in 1988.?

Question :? What about the other things which went on in the previous Government - the meeting of Foreign Ministers of India, China and Russia; and the IBSA Dialogue Forum initiative taken between India, Brazil and South Africa??

Natwar Singh: Indeed, we are all for it. It is a good thing. This is not a gang-up against anybody. Geographically a major part of Russia is in Asia. So, we would like to have this. The process will continue.?

Question :? Would you like to, say, include China and Russia in IBSA Initiative??

Natwar Singh: We have not got that far. I have not read all the papers.

Question :? You just proposed a common nuclear doctrine with China and Pakistan. Are you going to raise this with the Pakistan delegation during the expert level talks??

Natwar Singh: Well, this is a matter which has to be discussed at the highest level and the National Security Advisor and some of us will sit down. The objective is to have a policy for the two States that have become nuclear powers. With China also as a nuclear power, it is essential that we speak the same language because it is not just three countries, it is in fact the whole world. Therefore, this will be given very high priority. We mentioned this in our manifesto and the Common Minimum Programme that there will be a mechanism for this. But this issue has to be addressed. The previous Government did nothing for four years. The instrumentality that it produced did not function.?

Question :? Just a follow up on the last question. In case of a common nuclear doctrine, how do you propose to work around the reality that the Pakistan nuclear programme is targeted against India??

Natwar Singh: I think that we will try in a friendly spirit to convince them and I think in this regard there will be other countries who will be expressing similar views to ours. The fact of the matter is that while our nuclear programme has been transparent, a gentleman called A.Q. Khan has been having a private enterprise on nuclear weapons. That is an extraordinary situation. To say that the Government of Pakistan was not aware is to do grave injury to our intelligence.?

Question :? With regard to India-Pakistan relations, former Prime Minister Vajpayee has said that both countries should avoid exchange of public statements (bayanbaazi).Would you take his advice??

Natwar Singh: I have great respect for Vajpayeeji. It will take us 50 years for us to come near to matching the exchange of public statements (bayanbaazi) that took place during his regime.

There will be no exchange of public statements (bayanbaazi). I have been in this field for fifty-one years. When I came to the Foreign Service it was said, ?an accomplished diplomat thinks twice before saying nothing.’ So, I will use measured language. The exchanges through the media that have taken place have occurred from that side. When the question of Sino-Indian model came up, they got worried because they cannot say anything to China. We did not say anything formally. But the reply from the other side came formally in newspapers. There is one specific newspaper in our country which ran a headline saying, ?Natwar Singh trashes Musharraf’. God bless them for the language they use.?

Question :? Infiltration levels...(Inaudible)... On Kashmir, are you expecting a tough summer??

Natwar Singh: If you are speaking climatically, yes, it is 44 degrees today. But if you are speaking politically, I do not think so. Let me give you a little philosophical answer. Crisis management is India’s strong point. Otherwise, this democracy could not have survived. We are very good at reconciling contradictions. Otherwise, Indian democracy would not work. That Indian democracy works is one of the political miracles of the last hundred years. I am aware of its drawbacks and also its strengths. The fact is the transfer of Government in the last few days is, if I humbly say so, worth emulating in other parts of the world. So, if there are any hurdles, we will tackle them with wisdom, and with restraint and with goodwill.

I also want to say, especially to our friends, the information revolution is one of the great events of the last 25-30 years. So, we have a great amount of knowledge and great amount of information. But if this information and knowledge is not used with wisdom, that is a recipe of disaster. So, everything depends on how wisely you tackle the problems because decision has to be made instantly. If Babri Masjid had happened fifty years ago the world would have taken three months to know. It knew in one minute. If Gujarat had happened forty years ago, nobody would have known. They knew Gujarat happened all over the world. We have the information, we have the knowledge. Regrettably, the previous Government did not use that knowledge and information with wisdom. They used it for political purposes instead of thinking in terms of this great country, and as wise men. This is a blot on us. We have to put an end to it. So, information and knowledge must be combined with wisdom. There is no lack of wisdom in India. They are wonderful people whose instinctive wisdom said that there is no shining India, there is no feel-good anywhere, there is no uday yatra. We did not: it is the inner strength and spiritual resource of Indian people which responded to this nonsense.?

Question :? India has been striving to become a permanent member of the Security Council for some years. When do you think will that be possible??

Natwar Singh: The Charter of the UN has to be revised. The Charter lays down that all five permanent veto power members must agree to review of the Charter. That is a very difficult exercise. In my judgment, it will have to be a package. No one country will come. India is always there, some from South America - Brazil, a country from Africa, Japan, Germany. It has to be a package. Unless all the five agree, I do not see it happening, but it should, because the United Nations Security Council is not a democratic body. It was found when there were only 51 members of the United Nations in 1945.Now there are 192 and there are only five permanent members with veto.?

Question :? What is your policy towards Myanmar??

Natwar Singh: Our Ambassador from Myanmar is here. He briefed us about what is happening there. I think we should do much more, first for the release of Aung Sang Suu Kyi.

Thank You.

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