Ms Rao: Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Has Dr. Kharazzi met the Prime Minister?
Yes, the Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Kharazzi met Prime Minister Vajpayee this morning and the meeting lasted approximately 35 minutes. It was a good meeting and views were exchanged on the current state of India-Iran bilateral relations, the meeting of the Joint Commission is taking place, satisfaction was expressed about this positive development, the positive evolution of Indo-Iranian cooperation in a number of areas and particularly emphasis was laid on the promotion of closer economic, trade and functional cooperation ties between India and Iran. There was a discussion on the regional situation and the developments in Afghanistan.
Both countries have resolved to cooperate even more closely in matters relating to rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan. They are both committed to a peaceful and stable and prosperous Afghanistan. The situation relating to India-Pakistan relations also figured in the discussions and from our side Prime Minster conveyed to Dr. Kharazzi our perspective on the situation, the legitimate concern that is felt by India on Pakistan’s unwillingness and incapacity to deliver on our reasonable expectations that Pakistan should take action to eliminate cross border terrorism and thereby create a conducive climate for improvement of relations. Since that has not happened , that concern was articulated by us as we have articulated it to a number of world leaders in recent days.
The reference was also made to the terrible cost that has been borne by India as a result of terrorism inflicted on it - the massacre in Jammu last week being a graphic illustration of this and the fact that infiltration, and support to militants, and ingress into our territory by terrorist organistations and groups from Pakistan has not abated. That was also conveyed to the Iranians today. The meeting of the Joint Commission is holding its concluding session. We will update you on that as soon as we have the information.
What was Iran’s response to the present situation between India and Pakistan?
Iran like other countries stated that it does not want to see conflict between India and Pakistan, that it would like differences between the two countries to be resolved without conflict. You are also aware that the Iranian Foreign Office condemned the attack in Jammu.
What was Iran’s response when we expressed our concerns?
I think Iran like a number of countries who are our friends is fully understanding of our position, understands the rationale behind our position, understands our compulsions. In that sense I think we are not talking on a different wavelength. There is a certain bandwidth, here if I may use a technical term, of all like minded countries who appreciate India’s concerns, who empathize with it and who understand why we have had to react in the way we have had to in response to the situation we face.
How do you categorize PM’s visit to J&K? Some reports suggest that it is a precursor to war. How
do you respond to that?
The Prime Minister is going to spend 3 days in Jammu and Kashmir and he is going there first of all to meet the victims of the Kaluchak Massacre. His first engagement there will be to visit the military hospital in Jammu and to enquire after the welfare of the injured and the casualties in this heinous attack and to demonstrate the Government’s solidarity with those innocent victims of terrorism and also to state our resolve that we will resist terrorism with every ounce of determination that we have.
Pakistan High Commission in UK has said that India and Pakistan are on the verge of a war. Are India and
Pakistan on the verge of a war?
No, I somehow get the impression from your question that this is very one sided, that India seems to be doing all this and you have a peace loving Pakistan on the other side. I am afraid that we haven’t got the picture right there. I think a number of developments have contributed to this present juncture where we stand at this moment and of course no where has India been belligerent in its actions.
I think we are entitled legitimately, it’s our sovereign right to defend our interests, especially when they have been threatened in the manner that they have been threatened by forces from across our borders. So we have done what every other right thinking country would do and I totally reject the charge that it is we who are war-like or it is we who have been belligerent. There is absolutely no substance to that charge. In fact it is we are who are the injured party in this.
But what are you trying to accomplish by massing around large number of troops along the border?
I wouldn’t like to talk about anything relating to troop movements and deployment because that is really the charge of the Defence Ministry. I would not like to stray into that area. It is not within my brief to speak about that. But I would like to reiterate, I would like to emphasise that we are engaged in the defence of our interests, in the protection of our citizens and in preventing cross border terrorism from achieving its dastardly aims.
Is there any US pressure to restrain?
We are not in the business of responding to pressure where our interests are at stake. Let’s get this very clear, the bottom line is the national interest and we will defend that under every circumstance.
Any details on Chris Patten’s visit?
No, I do not have any details on that. I can let you know.
Any further diplomatic initiative?
Well, as I said we are preparing the ground for further diplomatic initiatives vis-à-vis the rest of the world so that all our friends in the international community are better able to understand our policy in this situation and the very logical reasons we have for fighting the scourge we face from cross border terrorism.
When is Dr. Kamal Kharazzi going?
He is leaving around 7.00 p.m I think.
Is he going to Islamabad?
All I know is that he is leaving from here. It’s a special flight. He has come on his own aircraft. I have as yet no indication on whether he is going to Pakistan.
You have been saying that the international community understands India’s concerns...
We are in the process of determining the nature of the initiatives that we need to take and how we strengthen our outreach to the international community in order to explain our policies and to bring further support for India’s position. It is of course our logical aim.
I think, I don’t really need to go into that. I think nobody wants to see a conflict. I think that is the generally stated position. We are all in the ultimate analysis, we are for peace and we are against war. But you are looking at a specific situation here. There are certain determinants that govern the situation and there are certain national interests involved. I am not saying… Please don’t think that I am talking about imminent conflict.
Now please don’t get me wrong on this because I am not talking on those lines. But what I mean is that we are confronting a situation here in India which is being generated by certain actions from across our border. We have been victims of terrorism, our innocent citizens have fallen victims to attacks of the nature you saw last week and we have time and time again spoken, reached out to Pakistan about the need for Pakistan to take action against these groups, against the militants that they have promoted, against the extremism that they fuelled, against the terrorism that they have propelled.
So under these circumstances and given the fact that there has been no give from Pakistan and no actions by Pakistan to respond to our demands, we are taking necessary steps to defend our interests and to convey to Pakistan that this situation cannot go on. As I said yesterday we will not have further pain inflicted upon us.
Some reports suggest that the attack in Karachi and Kaluchak were carried out by same group in order to
incite tension between India and Pakistan. What do you have to say about that?
Well, I wouldn’t respond to the second part of your statement on the creating of tension because I cannot react on the basis of a speculative report. But the attack in Karachi was a terrorist attack; the attack in Jammu was a terrorist attack. Terrorism everywhere deserves condemnation. On that there is no question.
What happened in the attack on the French Engineers in Karachi a few days ago earlier to the Jammu attack was a terrorist attack. It was a heinous crime and it deserved our full condemnation. We are not distinguishing terrorism in one place and terrorism in the other. I am afraid countries like Pakistan tend to do that. The clarity of our vision as far as such incidents are concerned is undisputed.
You mentioned about Pakistan’s unwillingness and incapacity to deliver on our reasonable expectations.
Could you kindly clarify?
No, I just mean incapacity as incapacity, that Pakistan doesn’t seem to have the will or the capacity, the willingness to respond.