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'Keep Your Promise'

The Indian prime minister's interview with Lally Weymouth, the Washington Post on June 23, 2002.

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'Keep Your Promise'

[[The Pakistan President has been on a spree of interviews as is his wont, and the crux of them seem to be to put a new spin in an attempt to do some deft damage-control regarding the widely reported "promises" made by him to the US Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who apparently had read the riot act to him.

With the Indian government tying itself in knots over pettily harassing Alex Perry of Time, in the manner better suited to a sarkari clerk, the good General across the border is full of bluster and bravado once again: No, he did not make any such promise. How could he? He doesn't call it cross-border terrorism, to start with, it's a  'freedom fight' and there wasn't any movement across the Line of Control anyway. And so on and such like was the burden of the General's sudden burst of interviews to various media groups around the world.

That could be explained away as his problem vis-a-vis his domestic constituency, and the US embassy in New Delhi was quick to repudiate such claims, but what was most brazen was the blame on RAW to have been behind the Karachi attack. Pakistan Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider had said yesterday that the groups behind the attack near the US consulate had been identified, but he had withheld the names of the outfits. Perhaps because the good General's interview in Washington Post/Newsweek had just been published.

But as the Pakistani daily "The News" quoting police officials said today, the culprits have been identified as  Sepha-e-Sehbha (SSP) and its armed wing Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi.

"Both SSP and LJ were involved in the recent chain of terrorist attacks, including the firing at Lahore International Airport, carnage of Christians at a Bahawalpur Church, bombing at Church in Islamabad, and bloody attacks on French Naval officers and US Consulate in Karachi".

With this update, it is fascinating to read the interviews that have hogged the headlines recently -- outlookindia.com]]

On whether he believed the promise by Musharraf conveyed by Richard Armitage to stop theinfiltration and whether Pakistan has made a fundamental change: There has been no change in Pakistan's policy so far as cross-border infiltration is concerned. Every day we are getting reports that infiltration continues unabated.

On whether the promise included getting rid of the training camps in PoK and Pakistan both: Yes, in both areas. That was the promise. There are 50 to 70 terrorist training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and in Pakistan.

On whether Musharraf is trustworthy: [He laughs.] We are prepared to deal with him as he is, but we are cautious this time. Our past experience is not very encouraging.

On whether Pakistan and India have turned the corner, or is this just a pause between crises: If Pakistan implements the assurances given to us, a new beginning can be made.

On what moves India would make in response if Musharraf fulfills his promises: We will start a dialogue. India will be ready to have talks with Pakistan on all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir [India's name for the disputed state].

On whether he would meet with Musharraf: If his promises are implemented.

On when will the troops be pulled back from the Line of Control: It will take some time. Let us see what happens on the ground.

On whether there will be no immediate pullback: It depends on Pakistan. We will wait and watch.

On how close Pakistan and India were to war: It was a touch-and-go affair.

On whether it was  that close: I did not rule out the possibility of war. Until the last minute, we were hoping that wiser counsels would prevail and there would be no confrontation.

On whether the the Pakistanis promise to do everything he wanted: Not everything. They did not promise to behave as a friendly neighbor. We sought that promise.

On how he views the upcoming elections in Kashmir? Will they be free and fair and about outside observers: The elections will be held under the supervision of the central election commission. And we have made a commitment that the elections will be free and fair.

On whether it isn't hard to have free and fair elections in the background of the killing of Abdul Ghani Lone by Pakistan-backed terrorists: Pakistan is not interested in having elections. It is Pakistan's responsibility to stop terrorists from disturbing the elections. We have an elected government in Jammu and Kashmir. Voters should be given a choice whether they want the same government to continue or whether they want a change.

On past rigging of elections and India's responsibility to ensure free and fair elections: This time elections will be free and fair. International opinion is strongly in favor of such an election. Journalists are allowed to go to Kashmir.

On his plan for Kashmir: I will disclose the plan at the right moment. It's not only political but includes economic development.

On whether autonomy is the long-term solution for Kashmir: We are for the devolution of power. We have asked our friend Farooq Abdullah [chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir] what stands in his way of developing the state and ensuring the welfare of the people. If there are any constitutional limitations, tell us and we will remove them. So far, he has not come forward with any concrete proposals.

On whether 911 changed things in this region and whether there is more understanding of India's problems and a stronger India-U.S. relationship: After the 11th, there was international recognition that the problem of terrorism was not confined to Afghanistan. India has been fighting terrorism for two decades. There was a recognition that terrorism is a worldwide menace and must be tackled.

On the role played by the Chinese to calm down the recent crisis, given that they have always been a friend of Pakistan: The Chinese did not play an important role but advised both countries to settle all issues in a peaceful manner. There has been no basic change in China's policy. China continues to help Pakistan acquire weapons and equipment.

On whether the U.S. made a mistake in making Pakistan a partner in the war against terror: No, it was the right policy. Pakistan should be pressured to fight terror not only in Afghanistan but inside Pakistan itself. Terrorism is terrorism whether in the East or in the West.

On where al Qaeda is: They may be in Pakistan.

On whether he thinks Osama bin Laden is alive: Yes.

On whether he thinks the Pakistanis know where he is: Of course.

On whether Pakistanis know where he and his key lieutenants are: Not every movement, but broadly speaking, they know where al Qaeda and [the] Taliban are.

On whether there are elements of al Qaeda operating in PoK: The terrorist organizations operating in Kashmir are closely linked to al Qaeda and other jihadi organizations directly supported by Pakistan.

On whether meeting with President Musharraf would help: There has to be a basis for talks. I went to Lahore [in 1999, to meet Musharraf] and after that, there was aggression in Kargil. [Last summer], I invited Musharraf to a summit in Agra. It was a failure because Musharraf refused to recognize that there was terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. On the contrary, he insisted it was a freedom fight.

On whether the relations between the two countries gradually improve if Musharraf gives up cross-border terrorism and dismantles the camps: Yes.

On whether he would like that to happen while he's the PM: I would like to do it tomorrow.

On whether Musharraf is strong enough to tackle the extremists: He is strong enough. Infiltration cannot take place without the cooperation of the [Pakistani] army because the army is stationed on the border. And there cannot be any training camps without the permission of the government of Pakistan. Without the government's connivance, these terrorism activities cannot be carried on for long.

On whether Musharraf is like [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat, who says, "I would like to do this but I am not strong enough": Musharraf doesn't say that [and] we don't buy that argument. There have been military dictators in Pakistan before. Every time, the West defends them by saying that the alternative will be even worse -- so don't disturb things in Pakistan.

On what the US role should be: That of a facilitator.

On the death of bilateralism and whether the U.S. has emerged as a third party: No. That's why I said a facilitator, not a mediator.

(Courtesy, WashingtonPost.com on Sunday, June 23, 2002)

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