Well, you have, I'm sure seen the text of the remarks made by EAM and Mr. Richard Armitage after their luncheon meeting today, the transcript of which we have made copies of, and you have the details there. If there are any questions, I will answer them. Of course, Mr. Armitage has had discussions with External Affairs Minister, it's in fact, after those discussions, that they met you this afternoon. Following that, Mr. Armitage has met the Principal Secretary and National Security Advisor, Mr. Brajesh Mishra. They had a one-hour meeting and he has called on the Hon'ble Home Minister, Mr. Advani. Later this evening he is meeting the Prime Minister, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee and he will also meet the leader of the opposition Ms. Sonia Gandhi.
What time is he meeting the PM?
Around six o'clock.
What were the issues discussed? The fact that Mr. Armitage is coming from Pakistan, has he brought any specific proposal or message from there?
As mentioned during the brief interaction that they had with the media this afternoon, the current situation in the region was focused upon. Of course, as you will recall, our Minister, Shri Jaswant Singh has expressed our sense of appreciation of the spirit that has persuaded President Bush to send Mr. Armitage here and we have also stressed that India is committed very much to moving on the path of peace because to peace there is no alternative and that this is India's conviction and our commitment.
The situation in the region was discussed and our view that Pakistan should take permanent and irreversible steps to end infiltration and cross-border terrorism was reiterated and the fact that once Pakistan…if and when... Pakistan takes these irreversible steps to end infiltration as PM has also said, we will consider appropriate steps in reciprocity. But we will have to be convinced that there is credible evidence on the ground that Pakistan is taking action to fulfill its various assurances.
Mr. Armitage also mentioned and this has also been reflected in the remarks made by the State Department Spokesman, yesterday, that according to what has been conveyed to us by the US Administration, President Musharraf has made clear that ceasing infiltration across the LoC needs to be an action that is permanent. So we of course have to verify on the ground as to whether such steps…(interruption)
No I think the need… no this is the point, the point that the Pakistani President recognizes the need for such action to be permanent, that of course was conveyed to us and in response to that, of course, the US Administration is well aware, it has been made well aware of India's position that we've had such assurances made by Pakistan in the past that they will put an end to terrorism.
We saw that in the speech made by President Musharraf on January 12th that they would not support terrorism directed against any country and that they would not promote terrorism in the name of Kashmir against India. So this assurance had been made in the past but had not been followed up with credible action. Therefore, going by past experience we feel that it is in our legitimate interest to verify such assurances in the ground. And if and when we are satisfied that such assurances have been translated into action, then the principle of reciprocity becomes applicable.
What mechanisms do we have to verify that action has been taken on the ground?
Well the mechanism to verify, to monitor, to see that infiltration has been checked, has been put to an end is centered on the proposal that the PM had made, just the other day in Almaty about Joint Patrolling of the LoC and that would be the best way to deal with the situation. Of course, there is also the concomitant need for dismantling the infrastructure that supports infiltration, that supports terrorism directed against us.
Is it limited to joint patrolling or includes exchange of intelligence and information with other countries who are working on the Pakistani side of the LoC?
Well with a lot of countries, including with the United States, you are aware of the fact that we have Joint Working Groups on counter terrorism and that we exchange information, there is sharing of intelligence with a number of friendly countries and partners and that will continue to be the general approach to the situation. So in this case also there will be a sharing of information and there will be inputs that are exchanged between other countries and us. But when it comes to verifying the situation on the ground as we have advocated,it has to be a bilateral mechanism, that we should put in place between India and Pakistan and that is what the joint patrolling is all about.
What is our reaction to the proposal on the joint UK and US monitors along the LoC?
If you are asking me whether this was discussed in the meetings today, the answer is no. It did not come up at all. So I don't want to react to media reports. The views of the Government of India on this are very well known to all those who have mentioned the possibility of such actions that, for India and Pakistan to solve their problems, to deal with the issues that confront them, bilateral mechanisms are the best ways to do it and these should be applied in the current case also, where infiltration and cross-border terrorism checking is involved. So joint patrolling is the way. No other proposals really are practical or doable or necessary and this is a point that has been reiterated also by the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister in his press conference, yesterday in Moscow. So I need hardly reiterate it. This is the Government of India's considered position and there is no dilution in our approach to this issue.
What is the reaction of the US to this proposal on joint patrolling?
The governments of the US and the UK have already said this is an encouraging, positive idea that has been put forward. Of course, we will have to see what the Pakistani response to it is.
Are we going to make a formal proposal on the joint patrolling?
Well as I we have said first of all we have to form an assessment of whether there is a drop in infiltration and over the next few days, we will have to see whether the situation in the ground is altered and the question of dialogue , the question of consultation or discussions would really operate once we are satisfied that action has begun to be taken and that there is a palpable, tangible change in the situation on the ground.
< Inaudible >
I am not saying that as yet because obviously that would depend on our assessment of whether there is a tangible change in the situation on the ground, whether the assertions made by President Musharraf in his discussions with Mr. Armitage are being translated as I said earlier into steps that indicate that the situation is changing on the ground.
Would international monitors be on the Pak side of the LoC?
Frankly, I don't think that is a practical suggestion or a doable idea at all because the terrain is inhospitable, nobody knows it better than the forces of India and Pakistan and where is the need for any international presence there when both our countries can sit down and do this and check it in a verifiable,in an effective way, that would be the best way and most permanent solution for this.
Is reciprocity predicated on the ending of cross border terrorism?
It is predicated firstlyon the lessening of infiltration and indication that there is a change in the situation on the ground.
Was the issue of joint patrolling discussed between Armitage and EAM?
The situation in the region was discussed, the question of verification, the proposals put forward by us in this regard, the issue of joint patrolling, certainly did figure.
Any assurance of technical support by the US?
I wouldn't be able to discuss those issues.
Is halting of infiltration the only precondition for considering reciprocity or is the closure of camps is also a precondition?
We are talking of appropriate steps that could be considered once we have credible evidence to suggest that infiltration is going down definitively and that we are not seeing terrorism directed against us anymore. When we see that the assurances made by the President of Pakistan and by other senior level officials of the Pakistan Government that they see the need for permanent and irreversible action against infiltration and terrorism. Once we see that it is being translated into action on the ground then we would give serious consideration to appropriate steps.
You are asking me to give you a complete picture of the steps that India is going to undertake. I don't think that is the way these things work. . I think assessments are made on the basis of what we see on the ground and once we are convinced that there is change, there is irreversible action being taken then the principle of reciprocity would operate. I mean the principle of reciprocity is the principle that is well accepted in international relations and India accepts that principle. But for that to come into operation we must see action on the ground to end infiltration, to see a translation of the assurances made by the Pakistan Government into tangible action.
Reports suggested that Pak Government does not have control over infiltration?
I am asked this question everyday. You asked me that yesterday…. I think we have said it before, our Minister was asked this question, I think you have a Government in Pakistan, that we all assume is in perfect control of what is happening there and they should be able to translate their assurances into action and they are capable of that and I wouldn't like to indulge in sterile debates on this issue.
How do you react to reports about LeT possessing two nuclear bombs?
I don't believe in loose talk about nuclear options. I don't wish to even comment on that. It is for the Pakistan Government to put an end to this kind of loose talk and irresponsible airing of threats by terrorist groups that operate on their territory. It's an indication that these groups continue to operate even as the Pakistan Government says that they have no truck with these groups anymore, that these groups are being shut down, that their leaders are being arrested or prevented from indulging in such activity. I think this points to a deeper malaise, deeper problem in Pakistan. We have always talked let me add of the nuclearisation of terrorism and that the epicentre of terrorism in our region is Pakistan and if you add to that all these threats of nuclear blackmail, that is where the need for action lies, you have to centre your attention on that part of our region - on Pakistan itself.
Has Mr. Armitage come with any alternative formula? What message has he brought from Pakistan?
No, this visit was not about alternative formulas. This visit was to consult (interruption). No as I mentioned there was a reference to the assurances made by the President of Pakistan that he sees the need for a permanent end to infiltration. That I think was the core of the message conveyed.
Is there going to be a joint action by India and the US to fight the LeT and Al-Qaida members who are said to be regrouping?
If you are talking of joint action by the United States, no, that was not discussed. That is not on the cards. We have always said that we would fight this thing ourselves and we have done that all these years. We are perfectly capable of handling that situation. But we use such occasions of such visits to convey to our friends, especially to the United States our concerns and our assessment of the ground situation and of the fact that we are still concerned about infiltration and cross border terrorism.
No, I don't want to go into the details of that. I think we will make our decisions, we will decide on what future steps to take once these assessments have been completed.
Do you think there has been a lowering of rhetoric from the Pakistani President in the last couple of days?
I don't think we should form judgements on the basis of what may have happened in the last two or three days. I think the speech made by the President of Pakistan in Almaty, would you say that it was devoid of rhetoric? I don't think so. I think there was ample amount of rhetoric there. I think you have heard many of the same statements being made which we had heard before. But we are looking for action on the ground, we feel its time now for all the assurances that Pakistan reportedly conveyed to its foreign interlocutors into definitive concrete steps on the ground.
Any time frame for assessing the situation on ground?
It's difficult to say that. But our agencies are continuously monitoring the situation and the ssessments are built up on that basis. So each day counts I suppose in this process.
How do we assess Armitage's visit? Has it helped lower tensions?
Our External Affairs Minister very clearly said yesterday that we appreciate the initiative taken and the need that the US has expressed to consult with us and to inform us of their perspectives and to inform us also about the tone, the tenor, the substance of their discussions with the Government of Pakistan. So all this is useful. It provides very constructive inputs into the developing scenario.
Any confirmation on Mr. Rumsfeld's arrival?
I don't think I should make any announcement on that. I believe he is expected here in the middle of next week.
Do we see any forward movement in bringing peace?
I think we shouldn't jump to any conclusions as yet. We expect that over the next few days we should see concrete steps taken by Pakistan to help reduce tensions by bringing down infiltration, by dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism. So we hope that the situation moves in that direction. In that sense there is expectancy. We hope, we expect that steps will be taken. I am not optimistic, expectant is not optimistic.
Did Armitage convey anything specific that Pakistan would do in the days to come to assure us of its seriousness?
Well, the understanding is that the President of Pakistan has told the Americans that Pakistan sees the need for permanent action, irreversible action. So that is something we would like to, we hope to see will be translated into action on the ground. We need to check whether this is a credible assurance because we have seen some of that on past occasions also. We have seen that happen after January 12 and we all realized after a few weeks that there was a roll back in steps that had been taken. So based on our experience in the past we would like to be cautious and we would like to verify before we can trust.