Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh: Both sought cooperation, stressed determination to fight back

Edited excerpts from speech to Lok Sabha by Atal Bihari Vajpayee & Manmohan Singh; translated from the Hindi

Updated: September 21, 2016 9:20 am
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Decision on war not made on impulse, unilaterally… will be nation’s decision: Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Mr Speaker Sir,…

listening to Shri Chandra Shekhar yesterday, I was reminded of Arjun in the battlefield of the Mahabharata. The question is not whether there should, or should not, be war. Under what circumstances war will be fought, should be fought, whether it is at all needed to be fought — that is the question. No one in the country wants war.

I had written a poem, jung na hone denge, but the Kargil war followed soon afterward. Had the nation not been prepared, had we allowed ourselves to be carried away by the sentiment of ‘jung na hone denge’, we would have done the nation a grave injustice. We had gone there [to Pakistan in February 1999] with the message of peace, but we did not succeed. Now we are asked, why did you go? It’s a problem: if you don’t go, you are told why aren’t you going, and if you go, you are told why did you go!

But a positive point of view has been presented in this discussion. I would like to thank the leaders of all political parties. As I said in the beginning, this is not the time for dogma or for sticking to rigid positions. This is the time for us to come together to find the way forward. Efforts have been made to keep talking to everyone… This is not the time for politics, not when we face a challenge to our existence as a nation, and when our national pride has been attacked. Parliament was targeted by terrorists who understand that this is the heart, and the guarantor, of Indian democracy, which represents and ties together by a common thread all of this nation, and which is the great experiment in taking all of us along together — this was what they wanted to strike… This is a challenge that the nation will have to confront unitedly.

…Restraint is being preached to us now. But when have we not acted with restraint? Indeed, our restraint has been seen as our weakness. We are a democracy. We need to be mindful of public opinion. It is important to consider what is right and what is not right. No one is trying to whip up passions in this country, nor should anyone be trying to do so. Decisions on war and peace are not made impulsively. Whatever decision is made, will be made after assessing the entire situation, considering all solutions, weighing every option, and keeping in mind the good of the nation as a whole. Every one’s cooperation will be sought. These are not decisions that the party can make unilaterally. These will be the nation’s decisions.

When I went to Lahore, and got an opportunity to visit the Minar-e-Pakistan [at the site where the Muslim League first adopted the resolution for Partition in 1940], I was advised not to go, but I said, no, that would be wrong. I went there and I said that we want a neighbour who sees improvement, development, and is strong… Pakistan believes that India has not accepted Partition. This is not true. I had told General (Pervez) Musharraf too that for us, Partition is a closed chapter, but tell me, have you been able to accept the partition of India? Partition was unfortunate, but it has happened. We were against it. But it is now the nation’s policy, and we are acting accordingly.

Elements of this kind (terrorists) are active in Pakistan, their government knows that as well as we do. Which is why we have told Pakistan that it must act against the terrorist groups that planned and organised this reckless operation. We hope that there will be action — but we are not relying on diplomacy alone, we are also mobilising international opinion as has been suggested. And we should have the confidence and the belief that this opinion is behind us on this question. I have visited several countries of late. The world is looking at India with trust. India’s democracy is a growing democracy. India can confront challenges, that recognition is increasing — but we have to fight terrorism by ourselves, on our own strength.

All major countries have been apprised of our situation, and they recognise that we have every right to take all steps to defend ourselves, but they add that we must also think before we act. We always think before we take any steps, and even in the future, all steps that we take will always be well thought through — but those who preach restraint to us should also talk to our neighbour, ask our neighbour until when it will continue to play this game…

Most countries of the world are part of the international coalition against terrorism. What proof is required for the terrorism that India is faced with? The bullet marks on Parliament’s walls, the bodies of terrorists lying outside Parliament House, the fact that they were Pakistanis, are all proof. The question of a joint probe does not arise. The security and sovereignty of our nation has been challenged. We will confront it, and we hope that we will receive support from all right-thinking nations. We do not expect any of them to fight our battle, I have said this before, and I would like to repeat, we will finish terrorism on our own strength.

But the world has to decide that there cannot be several kinds of terrorism, the definitions of terrorism cannot be different. It cannot be that what is terrorism in one country is not terrorism in another. A global effort to end terrorism is ongoing. What happened that day (December 13, 2001) was a demonstration of terrorism. We believe that other nations will understand our feelings and lend their support to us… We know how to deal with terrorism, and we will deal with it. But at this moment, the gap between what the nations of the world preach and what they practise is coming out too. Yardsticks cannot be different. There must be only one yardstick for terrorism.

…Let us not deny the preparations [that prevented a greater tragedy on December 13], but let us also look at the deficiencies in them. Suggestions are invited on how to fill these gaps. But let this not be a question of the government and the opposition. This is a time to ensure peace and brotherhood in the country, no one should try to take advantage of the situation that has arisen — if any party or organisation tries to provoke animosity or create differences between communities, it will be harming the nation. Such activities will not be tolerated. We expect that people will act sensibly… Party politics has its own place, but in this nation, whenever we are faced with a crisis, we forget all our differences and unite to confront the danger…

(Edited excerpts from speech to Lok Sabha on December 19, 2001; translated from the Hindi)

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Idea of India as pluralisticsociety, democracy is at stake… seek cooperation: Manmohan Singh

Mr Speaker Sir,…

I am conscious… that our systems and procedures in dealing with terrorism need a review. On behalf of our government, I would like to apologise to our people that these dastardly acts could not be prevented.

(Mumbai) was a very calculated and sinister attack, intended to cause widespread terror and damage to the very image of India. The forces behind these attacks wanted to destabilise our secular polity, create communal discord and undermine our country’s economic and social progress.

Each one of us has condemned this horrible incident and also extended our deepest condolences to the bereaved families and sympathies to those who have suffered injuries. We have all saluted the courage and patriotism of the police and security forces… I have personally spoken and written to the Heads of State or Heads of Government of those countries whose nationals were the victims of this terrorist onslaught, apologising to them that this incident could not be prevented.

Mr Speaker Sir, nothing that we can say or do will compensate for the lives that have been lost. It is important to ensure that the memory of their sacrifice does not get dimmed with the passage of time. Parliament must resolutely reinforce our nation’s determination to defeat terrorism and destroy it root and branch. The scourge of terrorism has to be, and will be, fought with determination. All means and measures needed for this purpose will be utilised…

I believe we have to work at three levels. First, we have to galvanise the international community into dealing sternly and effectively with the epicentre of terrorism, which is located in Pakistan. The infrastructure of terrorism has to be dismantled permanently. This is for the good of the entire world community, including the well being of the people of Pakistan themselves.

Several Heads of State and Government have spoken to me… Each one of them has praised India for demonstrating restraint. They agreed that strong action should be taken against those responsible for these acts. I conveyed to them that we could not be satisfied with mere assurances. The political will of the international community must be translated into concrete and sustained action on the ground…

Secondly, we have taken up strongly with the government of Pakistan the use of their territory for launching an attack of this kind, and the need for the strongest possible action against the perpetrators… The world community must be convinced that actions by Pakistan against the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity will be effective and will be sustained over time.

We have so far acted with utmost restraint. But let not our commitment to civilised norms be misconstrued as a sign of weakness. Every perpetrator, organiser and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion or location must pay the price… We have noted the reported steps taken by Pakistan. But clearly much more needs to be done and the actions should be pursued to their logical conclusion.

Thirdly, we need to recognise as a nation that we cannot depend on either of these two approaches for obtaining the outcomes that we all desire. The Mumbai incident has highlighted gaps in our preparedness to deal with these kinds of assaults. We need to equip ourselves more effectively to deal with this unprecedented threat and challenge to our country’s integrity and unity…

The need for stronger measures to protect our coastlines has been highlighted before, but the progress… in this regard has obviously been tardy and too slow. We are strengthening our maritime security against asymmetric threats from the sea. Since there are currently multiple agencies tasked with coastal security, it has been decided that the sole responsibility of guarding the coastline would be entrusted to the Coast Guard. The Indian Navy would provide the necessary back-up support…

Real time monitoring of aircraft movement jointly by the Air Force and the civil authorities has begun. Air defence measures to prevent intrusion of rogue or unidentified aircraft are in place. The attacks highlighted the need to be able to act in response to such incidents with much greater speed. We have worked out a mechanism for a comprehensive crisis management response. It has already been decided that the National Security Guard should be decentralised and dispersed and should be located in major metropolitan areas. At the same time, arrangements must be put in place such that rapid response units can reach other locations without loss of time…

We have decided to strengthen the legal framework to deal with terror and also to set up a national investigating agency… Bills would be brought… at the earliest.

Daily meetings at the level of the Home Minister are being taken. The Multi Agency Centre of the Intelligence Bureau will be concentrating exclusively on collecting, collating and disseminating information relating to terrorist threats. Integration and coordination among the various intelligence agencies is being improved…

There is a general consensus that the long-term strengthening of our security will only take place by strengthening the police establishment, particularly at the local level. We are committed to police modernisation and will spare no effort and no resource to undertake this task within a definite timeframe. We must provide our security forces with the modern and sophisticated equipment they require to tackle the increasing sophistication of terrorist crimes. The morale of our security forces is of utmost concern and importance and if there are any deficiencies these will be made good.

Terrorist attacks have tried to sow communal divide… and weaken our polity and social fabric. We have emerged stronger with every challenge, and will do so again. I have no doubt that the Mumbai attacks will also fail in their nefarious designs. All political parties have an obligation to unite against communal hatred and discord. We cannot fight and win this war against terrorism, if we are a divided house.

…It is in times of adversity that the true mettle of a nation is tested. We must remain calm and be resolute. We will give a fitting rebuff to our enemies. The idea of India as a functioning democracy and a pluralistic society is at stake. This is a time for national unity and I seek your cooperation. Truth and righteousness are on our side and together we shall prevail.

Edited excerpts from speech to Lok Sabha on December 11, 2008; translated from the Hindi