April 09, 2020
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Rajya Sabha Resolution

'The Right Of Pre-Emptive Strike'

The MEA, when rising to support the Resolution on Iraq, April 9, had to explain and elucidate his reported remarks to the media on Pakistan and whether, as Natwar Singh charged, he had ended up justifying the American action in Iraq -- unedited text.

'The Right Of Pre-Emptive Strike'
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Sir, I rise in support of the Resolution, which you have very kindly moved from the Chair.  I do not rise, let me clarify, to participate in a debate because I do not think we have debated here an issue in the spirit of Treasury Benches and Opposition.  It is a Resolution, which has the support of all Members of this House, cutting across political  party lines.  I am sure at the end of it, it will be passed by acclaim. 

Sir, as I mentioned in the beginning,  I rise in support of the Resolution   and to say a few words which need some clarification.   But before I proceed to do that, Sir, I would like to deeply mourn on my behalf, on behalf of the Government of India -- and  I am sure the whole House will join me--  the precious lives   of media people which have been lost in this war in Iraq.  Lots of lives have been lost.  I believe at least a dozen media people have lost their lives in this war.  Three journalists died only yesterday when the hotel in which they were staying was attacked.  I would also like to compliment the Doordarshan Team of Satish Jacob and Syed Nizami who despite all these dangers in Baghdad have stayed on to report on what is happening in Baghdad.  I am sure the whole House will join me in complimenting them for this courageous act.  

Sir, the world has been deeply divided on the issue of Iraq.  I am not sharing a secret with this House when I say that the United Nations is divided, the Security Council of the United Nations is divided, the Non-alignment Movement is divided, the OIC is divided, the Arab League is divided, the NATO is divided, the European Union is divided.  Think of any major group of nations and we find that there is a deep fissure, a deep division which has prevented them from speaking in one voice on this issue.  I am, therefore, particularly happy that the Iraq issue has not succeeded in dividing us.  This whole House, the entire Parliament of India stands as one person behind the Resolution, Sir, that you have moved.  Once again, we have demonstrated that when it comes to national interests, when it comes to a matter of such import as the present Iraq crisis, then we have the genius to demonstrate our wisdom and also our unity. And this has been proved repeatedly in our history.  

Sir, therefore, I will not like on this occasion to reply to some of the issues which have been raised vis-a -vis the attitude of the Government or any other political party.  I think ultimately we need to compliment you, Sir, and we need to compliment ourselves on the fact that it has been possible for us to agree on a Resolution, which is not cast in a language, which meets the requirement of all shades of thinking.  Sir, there have been one or two issues which have been raised and specially by my distinguished colleagues Shri Natwar Singhji, Ramachandraiahji and others.  I think it will create misunderstandings if I do not respond to those issues.  And that is why I am responding to them so that those misunderstandings, if any, are removed. 

Sir, the first is the question, the right of  pre-emptive strike and did I say that India had the right of pre-emptive strike against Pakistan, and, therefore, was I supporting the American led pre-emptive strike against Iraq even by implications.  I would like to clarify, Sir, that in this age and time wherever you go, there is media waiting for you.  They ask you questions.  You cannot always say that I will not answer any questions.   Questions are asked which are of immediate topical interest and are of importance.  

It was in that spirit, a question was put to me that if weapons of mass destruction, terrorism or export of terrorism and absence of democracy are reasons for a country to go into another country, militarily, then don't you think that Pakistan is a fitter case and don't you think that India has got all the arguments in its favour to do what the U.S. had done or the U.S.-led coalition has done?  And, I am quite sure, nobody in this House will disagree with me when I say that I genuinely believe the possession of weapons of mass destruction, absence of democracy and export of terrorism are the criteria.  Then, no country deserves more than Pakistan to be tackled in this way compared to any other country in the world.  

We have said, and, I am not trying to conceal anything, that we, in the Government of India, have not come across any evidence to link Iraq with either weapons of mass destruction or export of terrorism.  And, therefore, we have differed with many other powers on this particular issue.  But, we know from experience, we know on the basis of evidence, that Pakistan does not fall in the same category as Iraq, it is in a much worse category.  And, therefore, it was in that context, that this reply was given by me that if these are the criteria then Pakistan is a fitter case.

But, I would like to say, Sir, ever since the issue of a pre-emptive strike against Iraq has been talked about, there have been commentators, there have been writers, not only in India but elsewhere in the world, who said that if there was a pre-emptive attack case, India has a better case against Pakistan than any other country.  This is an opinion which has been expressed, repeatedly, in articles that have been written even in the foreign media. 

Now, having clarified that point, Sir, I would like to say, again, an issue was raised that the U.S. Secretary of State has said that after they had done with Iraq, they are going to turn their attention to the Indian Sub-continent.   When that question was put to me, I responded by saying that the only issue, according to us, which we are discussing with the international community, is the issue of cross-border terrorism and I would like everyone in this House, in this country, to be clear about it that there is an international coalition after 9/11.  There is a Security Council Resolution No. 1373 against international terrorism.  And, under this Resolution and within the international coalition, there is supposed to be going on a global war against terrorism.  We are partners in that.  

Therefore, when we find that 'another country' is in clear violation of Resolution No. 1373 that 'another country' is indulging in cross-border terrorism with impunity, then this is an issue, under that international coalition, under that U.N. arrangement, within the ambit of the Security Council Resolution.   We have not hesitated in discussing that with other countries.  We have discussed with them the issue of cross-border terrorism.  

But, let me be very clear that what is not discussed and what will not be discussed is the issue between India and Pakistan, whether it be Jammu and Kashmir or any other issue under the Shimla Accord.  That is to be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan and that is how, if at all, it will be resolved.  There is no third party role in these bilateral issues between Pakistan and India and we will not permit any third party to play any role.  So, let there be no doubt about this particular issue that any one is being invited by us to play a role on the bilateral issues with Pakistan or, that anyone will be permitted to play that role.  

Having said that, I would also like to say that we should not, perhaps, be too sensitive about the things.  We are a nation of over a billion people.  We are a nation of a great deal of confidence.  We should be able to reflect that confidence.  If somebody says, "We will try to take care of India and Pakistan", let them say what they want to say.  Let's also not be too sensitive about who is responding to a statement that I have made.  Let me tell you that when a joint statement was made by the U.S. Secretary of State and the British Foreign Secretary, it was our official spokesperson who had responded to that. 

This is something -- Mr. Natwar Singh will bear me out -- which happens repeatedly across the world.  The Foreign Offices respond to statements which are made by Ministers, Heads of Government, Heads of State.  So, if somebody has responded from the US State Department, however mistakenly, to a statement, which I have made, or, which is perpetrated to have been made by me, I don't think we should take it as a snub or a great humiliation of India or anything of that kind.  We have also responded in a similar manner.  Therefore, Sir, I would say that we should show the confidence that we have, as a nation. 

Yesterday, I had said in the other House that we have economic strength, we have military strength, but more than any other strength, we have the strength of Indian democracy. This is the strength that will stand us in good stead.  Therefore, nobody can caste an evil eye on India.  If anyone tries and does anything that we are not willing to accept, India has the capacity with the same degree of unity, which this House is demonstrating, today, in passing and adopting this Resolution.  The same unit will come to our help in tackling that problem. 

I will also hasten to add that our Foreign Policy has never been Pak-centric.  It is not Pak-centric even today.  We tend to talk about Pakistan all the time.  When I held my first Press Conference as the Minister of External Affairs to the Government of India, I had to plead with the media three-fourths of the way that let's talk about other issues because Pakistan is not the only issue of Indian Foreign Policy.  Today, we are discussing Iraq.  Pakistan came in tangentially. We will have an opportunity to discuss issues of Foreign Policy, I am sure, sometime within this session, or, at some other session. Then, I will get an opportunity to clarify so many other points that have been raised in the course of the discussion, today. 

But Let me, once again, compliment the entire House, the membership of this House, and you, Sir, in particular, for the wisdom that has been demonstrated by us, for the unity that has been demonstrated by us.  And, I am quite sure that the world will take notice of the Resolution, which is gong to be adopted unanimously by this House.  And, I would like to assure the House, through you, Sir, on behalf of the Government of India that it is an exceptional situation that the Parliament of India is adopting a Resolution.  We have adopted Resolutions in the past, Sir, in equally exceptional situations.   We are bound by those Resolutions. And, we will continue to work energetically; we will continue to work sincerely in the Government of India to ensure that the sentiment of this Resolution is translated at the international level.  Thank you. 

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