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'They Are Politicising Purely Humanitarian Gestures'

Union external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha responded to V. Sudarshan twice: on October 26, and then on October 30, a day after Pakistan responded to India's proposals.

'They Are Politicising Purely Humanitarian Gestures'
'They Are Politicising Purely Humanitarian Gestures'
Part II: October 30

What do you think about Pakistan's counter-proposals, more specifically on the bus link between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar?

Pakistan has, unfortunately, opted to politicise what was a purely humanitarian gesture. They have disrupted the proposal by attaching conditions they knew wouldn't be acceptable. Even now people from these regions travel without requiring the kind of documents that Pakistan has spoken about. We hope Pakistan will review its approach on this. On our part, India remains committed to doing everything possible to facilitate people-to-people contact between the people of our two countries.

Did we expect Pakistan to add the UN clause to our proposal on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus link?

We were not surprised. We are by now so familiar with Pakistan's negative mindset that none of their actions comes as a surprise. Let me admit however that we are disappointed to see Pakistan frustrate a measure aimed at the people of Jammu and Kashmir..

Why do you think they have offered medical facilities and scholarships to Kashmiris?

Clearly, this is typical of Pakistan's Kashmir obsession. Why only Kashmir and not the whole of India? They are welcome to throw open their medical and education facilities to people from the whole of India. Limiting the proposal to Kashmir makes it evident that their effort is to score political points and not act with sincerity. They seem to be under some misapprehension that India is trying to show off the superiority of its medical facilities over theirs. Pakistan citizens have been voluntarily opting to come to India for medical treatment. We have not been enticing them or luring them. Pakistan finds itself unwilling to acknowledge this fact. Anyhow, we have already clarified that the process would go further if their efforts are not targeted on any particular region of India. Our own efforts have not, for instance, been focussed on Sindh, Balochistan, NWFP or any particular community in Pakistan.

Do you think the peace initiative has turned into a farcical game of one-upmanship?

India's efforts are sincere. It is up to Pakistan to decide whether it would like to respond in a manner that advances the interests of the people of our two countries or engage in one-upmanship. As far as we are concerned, we intend to continue with the process.

Pakistan Foreign Secretary quoted you as saying that the twelve proposals made on 22nd October was a tactical move on the part of India and the Government is trying to split Hurriyat . What is your reaction?

The news reports referred to by the Pakistani Foreign Secretary are absolutely false and baseless. Our proposals on October 22 are marked by the same spirit of sincerity which has marked all aspects of Prime Minister's peace initiative since April 18. It is most unfortunate that the Pakistani Foreign Office, when defining its response, chose to rely on these baseless and speculative news reports.


Part I: October 26

Considering that a month ago, rhetoric in New York was so shrill, what has changed positively for India to have offered these proposals?

The rhetoric was shrill in New York from the Pakistani side. From the moment he arrived in New York General Musharraf had been indulging in a certain kind of rhetoric which can only be described as extremely unfriendly, extremely provocative and very specially harsh on India. In his response, I think the Prime Minister of India, Mr Vajpayee, on the other hand, was restrained, he was dignified, and he must have spent only about two minutes in a fifteen minute speech talking about Pakistan on what General Musharraf had said, though, quite predictably, this occupied the total attention of the media and it became projected as if it was the sum total of our preoccupation with Pakistan. It was not.

The point I would like to make is that the rhetoric was largely from the Pakistan side. But what we have done now is only that we have carried forward the peace initiative of the Prime Minister of April 18 and we have been moving forward and a number of steps have been taken.

You have said that some of the proposals have been pending for some time. Could you elaborate?

For example the civil aviation talks are pending in the sense that you have had one round and it's pending because the dates for the next round have not been suggested by Pakistan. Because we went to Islamabad for talks, all that was agreed was that we meet again for talks. They could have comeback to us and suggested dates. So this was an issue which remained pending. Similarly the railway link is something that Prime Minister Jamali had suggested to Prime Minister Vajpayee when he spoke to him on the telephone on the 20th.That is what I meant when I said that some of these issues had been pending.

What is the logic behind the condition that we have applied that if the air links talks are successful then we move on to the rail link?

We have said that we will hold a second round of technical discussions with regard to air links and we have said that we are ready to hold technical level discussions on the restoration of the rail links but we have said that we will take a final view only after the successful completion of the civil aviation talks. 

The reasoning here is very simple. The Pakistani side is keen to restore the links - the civil aviation links - but they don't appear keen to restore the over-flight rights. And they have some irrational fears, unfounded of course, that Indian planes will then be able to cross the Pakistani air-space and travel to Kabul which is only an hour or a quarter or hour and a half away. Therefore, as far as this particular aspect of civil aviation talks are concerned, they have been dragging their feet. This is not a technical issue. This is a political issue. And they will have to make up their mind politically whenever they want to. One would hope that they do so very soon so that in the second round we succeed in concluding the talks.

A new wrinkle seems to have been introduced into the formulation saying that no sustained dialogue was possible with Pakistan. The word "sustained" was not there previously...

I have been saying this ever since prime minister offered his hand of friendship because this question was asked: why this sudden change? Because we have been saying that there can't be any new beginning with Pakistan unless cross-border terrorism is brought to an end. Naturally, this was the question that was uppermost in the minds of everyone. I have been, in particular, explaining that we have a large number of issues to discuss with Pakistan including Jammu and Kashmir. Obviously none of these issues can be resolved in one sitting. You need an extended dialogue with Pakistan in order to resolve these issues. Which means that the dialogue will have to be sustained over a period of time. 

It's not a question of one week or one month. Also we are not going to have a dialogue for the sake of having a dialogue. We will like the dialogue to be meaningful and productive. So these are the three critical words therefore: sustained, meaningful and productive dialogue. And you can have sustained, meaningful and productive dialogue only when cross-border terrorism is brought to an end. Otherwise you will end up discussing the incidents of cross border terrorism each time that you meet.

And it is also important that we create a certain level of confidence for the dialogue. It cannot be that terrorism continues to be the instrument of state policy of Pakistan and we are forced to a dialogue under duress. What has to be realised is that when we are talking about terrorism we are not merely referring to infiltration. We are referring to the whole paraphernalia of terrorism. Specially the infrastructure of terrorism. Infrastructure means camps for terrorists across the line of control, which means recruitment, training, arming, financing, communications - all these are part of the infrastructure - and then pushing them across. I have told the American Secretary of State Colin Powell and others that when you are talking of infiltration, you are talking about a tap which has been opened. You can close the tap, but the whole reservoir of terrorism which feeds the tap is also something that has to be tackled.

On the yardstick of productivity, how productive in your assessment has Pakistan's intent been? Is the freeing up of 250 tariff lines an indication of a genuine transformation?

No it is not. Far from it. Because you know these 250 tariff lines are a very very small portion of something like lets say 6500 to 7000 tariff lines in the international nomenclature of trade. So when you are talking of 250 tariff lines, it is neither here nor there. It is not going to improve the situation from the present position of 90 per cent of the tariff lines being on the prohibited list in Pakistan, as far as Indian exports are concerned. We had suggested, to begin with, 1000 tariff lines. We thought that a thousand tariff lines might be a little more substantial but this was something that was not acceptable to Pakistan. So therefore we have had to settle for 250 tariff lines.

Have we settled for it?

Settled for it, yes -- it has been negotiated and finalised.

Does it give us enough confidence to go into SAARC as a result of this?

SAARC, we have already said, that we will go. As of now we will attend SAARC.

Whether or not there is a productive outcome?

Of what?

Of the SAARC summit. What do we expect from the SAARC summit?

We then have to point out at the SAARC summit that the previous decisions, not merely of 2002 but earlier SAARC summits also, have not been fruitful.

Some of these proposals are reheated ones. Why do we propose them again if they have already been under discussions and have not reached some kind of stalemate?

Like what?

The Kokrapar - Munabao point was announced in July 9, 2001. Especially the fact that administrative arrangements including those for transport will be urgently put in place so as to implement Prime Minister Vajpayee's decision within three months.

We made these offers that means a point on the line of control were on offer in 2001 and they were also announced by India unilaterally before the Agra summit. But all these remained wherever it was because the Agra summit did not succeed.

And isn't there some kind of informal arrangement already made clear by India that we will not arrest fishermen in that band we talked about in the proposal - the 20 nautical mile band? So this new band, how will it further the existing arrangement?

No, this is a band that will have to be negotiated. And specially in Sir Creek in which there is no determined maritime boundary, there is much greater confusion. and therefore we thought that we could give them some kind of a negotiated band in the sea where a fisherman could stray inadvertently, not deliberately, and if he does then we should not arrest him. We could warn him and ask him to go back.

Isn't the firing of warning shots already been in operation for some time?

That has been in operation, but the firing shots still does not prevent arrests.

On the link from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar, do we think that any service that takes off from that point, will be free from violence that could be perpetrated on either side of the line of control?

Quite clearly both countries will have to make arrangements so that the bus is not intercepted by terrorists.

Will you settle for some kind of arrangement that falls short of a visa stamp?

That is a matter of negotiation. But there has been a great deal of excitement in India whether we are going to recognise the line of control as an international boundary. I think that all this speculation is idle at this point in time. Because from our side there is no question of recognising the line of control as the international boundary. But the line of control exists. And we have to make an arrangement where travel across the line of control is recognised in some form or the other, just as the line of control has been recognised by both sides.

Its been one year since the elections in Jammu and Kashmir, so why have we put this internal track in play now? Isn't it a little too late?

I don't think so. You can always question the timing. When we came out with these 12 measures the question was: why now? But Mr. Vohra has been at it for over six months and a stage was reached when it was felt that may be Mr. Advani could have a talk with them.

None of the other attempts we have made before Mr Vohra have been particularly successful and even this - the rump Hurriyat has said that if it is only going to be about devolution we are not going to talk about it. Is this a setback?

I wouldn't rush to a conclusion that this is a setback. 

What is the earliest we can establish the 110 strength in our respective missions?'

I can't predict it at this point in time. But we have said that we'll look at the strength again once these steps are agreed upon, because quite clearly it will generate demand for issue of a larger number of visas.

How much does the US treasury department characterisation of Dawood Ibrahim take our battle for the 20 most wanted men forward?

It is a very important step that has been announced by the US. It is not a question of our gloating and saying that we had said this before. The point is Dawood Ibrahim is a criminal and a terrorist and also, unfortunately, a fact that he has been allowed to take shelter in Pakistan. It is also an unfortunate fact that despite all the evidence that we have made available to them with regard to Dawood Ibrahim, they decided to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. Now the whole thing is before the international community, it will not suffice for Pakistan to say that he is not there. Because if he is not there they will have to tell us where he is. He lived there. He has a Pakistani passport. He has been availing of Pakistan's facilities and hospitality so it is not enough for them to say we do not know about him.

He has been listed in the UN under the UN resolution that came into being after the Nairobi blasts. Will we now pursue this under UNSC Resolution 1373 (that came into being after the attacks on the World Trade Centre) and calls upon countries to co-operate in eliminating terrorist infrastructure and financing of terrorists within member countries?


Do we have any steps in mind?

We have. They will come into play as soon as we can put them together.

Excerpts from this interview appear in the print edition in a slightly edited form.

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