September 2000 News

Jehad Unacceptable: India

9 September 2000
The Hindu
Malini Parthasarathy

New York: As pronounced as are the repeated expressions of eagerness for the consolidation of the emerging Indo-U.S. equation, on the part of the Prime Minister and his senior colleagues during their various interlocutions here, is the determination on their part to highlight what they perceive is Pakistan''s incendiary role in promoting cross-border terrorism. In doing so, they apparently hope to validate the Government''s stance that in such an atmosphere a dialogue is not possible between India and Pakistan. Picking up from the Prime Minister''s assertive observations on the floor of the U.N. General Assembly on Friday that ''terrorism and dialogue do not go together'', the External Affairs Minister, Mr. Jaswant Singh, elucidated further on the same theme at a crowded press conference later in the evening. Mr. Singh''s observations served to expand on the thesis that Pakistan''s role in the spread of terrorism and its attitude precluded a reconciliatory approach from India. It must, however, be noted that much of what Mr. Singh said at the news conference on India-Pakistan relations was specifically in response to questions emanating from reporters on Pakistan''s stance as reflected in the observations that its Chief Executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, made here. But it is clear that the rationale set out by Mr. Singh at the press conference for India''s reluctance to engage Pakistan had strong echoes of the arguments used in diplomatic interlocutions. Indian officials have made no bones about the fact that their response to suggestions from other countries, including the United States, to resume the dialogue with Pakistan has rested on the premise that the dialogue could not be resumed until cross-border terrorism ended. Mr. Jaswant Singh was particularly scathing in reference to what he saw was on Pakistan''s part ''an advocacy of jehad'' which he said was completely ''unacceptable as an instrument of foreign policy''. If India were to accept such a concept, that would be tantamount to ''advocating global anarchy''. Besides, India had the second largest Muslim population in the world. With more citizens than any other country, who were Muslim, how could India be the subject of a jehad? ''So, what is this jehad against,'' Mr. Singh asked. He also maintained that the international community had ''become far more mindful of the menace of this terrorism''. Mr. Singh rejected a suggestion from a reporter that the Indian team was going out of its way to ''avoid'' interactions with the Pakistani Chief Executive and his team. On the other hand, Mr. Singh said, there was no such effort or initiative made by Pakistan for such an interaction. His reaction was also sought in regard to the parallel drawn between Kashmir and East Timor by Gen. Musharraf in his U.N. address. Mr. Singh sharply rejected the analogy as ''untenable'' and noted that East Timor had been occupied territory whereas Jammu and Kashmir was never occupied territory. ''If at all it was occupied, it was by Pakistan.'' Mr. Singh said that after Lahore and the experiences of Kargil and Kandahar, the Government had taken a decision that was ''explicit and unambiguous'' that unless Pakistan ''abjures violence'' and refrained from abrogating every international agreement, there could be no dialogue. The Minister also said categorically that the Government required of Pakistan that it ''reaffirms its commitment to the Shimla and Lahore agreements''. Mr. Singh''s pointed reference to the need for the Pakistani military regime to reaffirm its commitment to these agreements, which again had echoes of the Prime Minister''s remarks at the Asia Society and at the U.N., was a significant indication that another argument had been effectively added to the diplomatic arsenal in the war of words between India and Pakistan. The Prime Minister had chosen to specifically highlight this point in his Asia Society address where he said: ''For any meaningful dialogue, that country must demonstrate its commitment to existing bilateral agreements and abjure cross-border terrorism. Unfortunately, the current leadership of Pakistan has time and again publicly repudiated both the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.'' Mr. Jaswant Singh''s statement at the press conference buttressed this point and, in fact, appeared to manifest in a new requirement on India''s part of a public reaffirmation by Pakistan''s military rulers of their willingness to respect these earlier pacts.

 

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