Sunday, Sep 25, 2022

'These Are Substantial Gestures'

The official spokesperson on Indian de-escalatory steps, Jack Straw's comment on ISI, expectations from Pakistan and the possibilities of appointment of a new envoy there.

Relevant excerpts from the press-briefing of June 11

Jack Straw has stated today that there is clear evidence of links between the ISI and the terrorist groups. What is India's reaction?

We in India have all along pointed to the fact that the epicentre of terrorism in our region has really been centered in Pakistan and especially so after the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The linkages between the ISI and the terrorist groups that you have just referred to have been extensively documented and there is a body of evidence which would clearly suggest that linkages of that nature that you have just referred to have existed between certain Pakistani agencies and this terrorist combine that has grown up under our very eyes as it were in Pakistan. So I think the British Foreign Secretary's statement really points to a well established reality.

There are Reports today about the British Defence Secretary saying that there will be joint UK and US airborne troops monitoring the LoC. Is this true?

If you are asking whether this is a proposal that has been discussed, I have absolutely nothing with me to suggest that this is a proposal that has been made and is extant at the moment and the Government of India's views on the issue of patrolling, verification and monitoring along the LoC have been well articulated in the statement made by our Prime Minister at Almaty where it was suggested that India and Pakistan should engage in joint patrolling along the LoC once we had the figures of infiltration come down and that this would be the best way since both our forces known the terrain very well. They are well acquainted with the topography and therefore the best and the most efficacious way of monitoring the activities along the LoC will be by the two countries themselves.

Have we formally conveyed the lifting of the ban to the Pakistani side?

Yes, we have conveyed it. We conveyed it last evening when the Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan Mr. Jelani was called in to the Foreign Office and informed of the Government of India's decision.

Has it been decided to send the Indian Envoy to Islamabad?

I have no announcements to make on that.

The British Foreign Secretary has said that he was told by our Foreign Minister that the Indian High Commissioner would be sent to Islamabad and ships pulled back? Please comment.

As I said as regards the announcement on the appointment of the High Commissioner, there is a certain procedure that is followed, there are certain steps that are necessarily to be completed before a formal announcement is made and since on the subject of appointments we do not inform the media until all these steps have been completed, I am unable to make any announcement in this regard.

Could you say those things are underway?

I will not be able to say anything further on the subject.

What about the pulling back of ships?

You should check that with the Defence Ministry because I am not going talk on that subject. That is not within my purview. So I will not speak on that subject.

How do you see the visit of Donald Rumsfeld?

Well, let me once again emphasise that the Government of India is truly appreciative of the efforts made by the US Administration in the sense that a number of emissaries have visited New Delhi over the last few weeks, I think the discussions that we have held with the high level representatives of the US Administration have certainly helped both sides to better understand developments and we have very much valued the inputs that the US Administration has provided in terms of our analysis of the ongoing situation, in terms of the assessments that we have been able to make in terms of our monitoring of the situation as it exists today.

As you know we have had close consultations with Defence Secretary Rumsfeld on various occasions since September 11. We had the External Affairs Minister going to Washington soon after September 11, Secretary Rumsfeld was himself here towards the latter part of 2001 and discussions between the Defence establishments of the two countries have indeed grown both in quality and content in recent months, the whole defence relationship, the Defence Policy Group(DPG) has met twice, we have had meetings of the Executive Steering Groups of the three forces, we have had the recent exercises held in Agra. So the content and the substance of the relationship has been greatly enhanced as a result of these exchanges.

During Secretary Rumsfeld's visit tomorrow, certainly the bilateral issues that define defence relationships between India and the United States will naturally figure in the discussions. He is gong to have a meeting with our Defence Minister Mr. George Fernandes. He will be meeting the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and the National Security Adviser Mr. Brajesh Mishra and he will meet our External Affairs Minister and he will also in all likelihood meet the Home Minister and he will have discussions with the Prime Minister.

So I believe the visit is important and it will help us not only to continue our consultations on the growing defence relationship between the India and the United States but it will also, I believe, help us sensitize the US Administration further about the situation on the ground along the LoC, about the evolving situation in our relationship with Pakistan and I believe that these consultations as I mentioned earlier, have helped greatly in terms of understanding what needs to be done further.

Can you tell us if things are underway to appoint an Indian Envoy to Islamabad? The External Affairs Minister has talked about the appointment of the Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad….

Well, I can't share the procedures on that, I can't share the outcome of that. I don't think that's a fair question. I don't think you need to sound so combative about it. No I don't think this is about feelings and emotions. Foreign Policy and diplomacy is not about feelings and emotions. I have told you what the situation is, I am unable to make an announcement on this. Please respect that.

Is the Pakistan High Commissioner coming back?

I have absolutely nothing to say on that subject.

Would the Indian Government like Mr. Rumsfeld to carry any particular message to Pakistan about our concerns?

You would appreciate the fact that I am not going to be discussing what messages we are going to ask Secretary Rumsfeld to convey, if at all we do ask. I am not saying we will. So I will not be able to really divulge to you what that might be or what that might not be. So I am not going to dwell on that subject.

General Musharraf has said that India's gestures are not enough. Would you like to comment?

No, I believe they are important steps, they are significant steps and as I said yesterday they are an statement of our desire to reduce tensions, to pursue the paths of peace because to peace there is really no alternative and I believe that the Pakistani Government should recognise the import of these moves and the fact that these are substantial gestures.

Omar Abdullah in an interview to NDTV last evening said that infiltration was not a tap that could be tuned off and on and that India wanted a total closure of the terrorist camps. Would you like to comment?

Absolutely, because if I can only draw your reference to our statement of Saturday when we had said that we would respond appropriately and positively to the pledge made by the President of Pakistan about permanently ending infiltration and cross border terrorism, we had very clearly stated at that point of time that concomitant with a reduction and end to infiltration it was very necessary that the entire infrastructure of terrorism, the terrorist training camps, the locations where terrorists are presently stationed, they need to be dismantled and it is only once that is done that you will see the turning off of the terror tap once and for all, a permanent drying up of the terror tap.

Are you satisfied with the Pakistani pace of clamping down on terrorists?

Its too early to give you that kind of assessment. As I said we had responded to the pledge made by General Musharraf regarding the decision to put a permanent end to infiltration and cross border terrorism. We responded to that as being appropriate and positive. But we had also added that we would need to monitor the situation carefully, formulate our assessments about the developing scenario and that it would be too early to form any conclusive assessments at this point of time. This is a continuing process.

Has the firing come down?

I think some fire assaults continue. I don't think shelling has abated completely. In certain sectors it continues to be reported. You must have seen the news reports. But I think a more definitive assessment of that should really come from the Defence Ministry.