Salman Khurshid: ‘Is tit for tat enough? Is there a plan? You can’t kill conversation in the country’

Amid the debate over the surgical strikes, former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid speaks to The Indian Express.

Written by Manoj C G , Maneesh Chhibber | Updated: October 10, 2016 5:21 pm
salman khurshid, surgical strikes, surgical strike debate, uri attack, baramulla attack, former External Affairs Minister, details of surgical strikes, surgical strikes details, public curiosity, indian army, army attack pakistan, pakistan attack, india pakistan, pakistani terrorists, indian express news, india news Former External affairs minister Salman Khurshid.

While India’s self-esteem got a boost, the questions will continue until the government satisfies public curiosity. Defending the Congress’s decision to reveal details of the Army actions carried out under the UPA government, he recounts how A B Vajpayee supported the then Narasimha Rao government on countering a Pakistan-backed resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

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* How do you view the surgical strikes?

The strikes, frankly, are a matter of our national self-esteem, that we are not a pushover. These are not strikes that will eliminate the root cause of terrorism. We will obviously continue our efforts on every other front, including diplomatic front. Ultimately, the solution has to be found far beyond the Line of Control. We believe there have been some mistakes in handling of Pakistan by this government… but inevitably such things will happen in a dynamic situation. I don’t think this is a moment in which we should be asking questions, because right now the message should go (out) that it is one nation, one voice, one sentiment.

* But those within your party are asking questions.

Nobody is questioning the strikes. There are people in our party who have active minds, and they are saying we need to know more. There are questions being raised here, in Pakistan etc. Why are these questions being raised? If the purpose of the strikes is told, there would be no further discussion. But the purpose is not being told. We have to work out the purpose for ourselves. Tit for tat? But is tit for tat enough? When Israel attacks some place, say nuclear facilities in Iran, they do it with a definite objective, that we will delay the nuclear programme by four years etc. So is there a plan? Like five strikes, and we will be in a much more comfortable position… Since the government has not spoken about any clear plan, there are some people who are asking questions… You can’t give operational details, but you can give more information than has been given. If people are asking, either explain to them why it can’t be given and should not be given, or satisfy them in any other manner… you can’t kill conversation within the country.

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READ | Surgical strikes: Bodies taken away on trucks, loud explosions, eyewitnesses give graphic details

* What made your party reveal details of the strikes carried out under its UPA government?

Because there is some negativity in the manner of display of what we have done. While we were supportive of the government, the general discourse was not appreciative of the support of the Congress. And it was important that the Congress set the record straight. Let nobody assume, as there was an implied or explicit suggestion, that the Congress could not do it. We have done it… if we didn’t tom-tom it, it was our decision, and if they are tom-tomming it, then it is their decision.

* Why are you tom-tomming it now?

You cannot hold somebody guilty by association and say they never do it. If nobody had said Congress never did it and couldn’t do it, we would not have said no, we have done it.

* You are asking for details. Your government kept the strikes a secret.

Either don’t announce it, or if you want to announce it, then satisfy public curiosity.

* On issues of national security, India has always witnessed an element of bipartisanship and consensus. In 1994, you and A B Vajpayee together thwarted a Pakistan-sponsored resolution claiming human rights violations in Kashmir at the UNHRC. What has changed?

The nature of politics has changed in India. It is less a sense of serving the cause…and more an assessment of what will it get me. It would be silly for me to say that we were saints and never cared about the response of the people. Everybody does think keeping in mind the response of the people…we did it also. But it’s where you stop. If you give too much prominence to that, it becomes a totally different factor.

* Would Vajpayee have done it differently now?

Vajpayee was incredibly supportive of the government. He not only supported the government from outside, he was almost like an insider for a government of the Congress. I was deputy leader and he was leader of that delegation. So the government in office had a deputy leader… We found that he was an insider as far as we were concerned on the issue of our approach to the UNHRC… he had the same approach that we had. If he was the leader and if he succeeded, he would get kudos, and he did get kudos… It wasn’t that the PR machinery of the Congress party and the government said keep Vajpayee out.

* Do you see that happening again?

No, the range of leaders that we have today, I don’t see this happening and this hasn’t happened.

* How do you see the government’s response to questions regarding the strikes… like accusing Arvind Kejriwal of helping Pakistan?

That is ridiculous. The moment somebody says you are helping Pakistan, they are helping Pakistan. The moment you tell your own people that you are helping Pakistan, you are sending a clear message to Pakistan that we are a divided country. It is pathetic to accuse anyone of helping Pakistan. Nobody in this country would think of helping Pakistan, because there is nothing redeeming about Pakistan. Peace can be continued for a hundred years, and a war can be fought not even for a hundred days… Even if we fight a war with Pakistan, at the end of the war, there will be peace talks… You end war by talking.

* So is dialogue a possibility?

Today it is difficult. The atmosphere is too negative for a dialogue. It serves no purpose to talk about a dialogue today… But at some future date, what else will we have? Is there anybody in the government who is saying that the only solution with Pakistan is war… In their right mind, they would not say that.

* Do you think the unrest in Kashmir is linked to the increase in cross-border terrorism?

Any time that there is trouble in India, if someone wants to hurt us, they will take advantage of it. The lesson for us is let’s try to minimise trouble in our country. Let us minimise the chances of a division among ourselves… When we are being attacked repeatedly, we can’t show any signs of military, psychological or political weakness… Why are we bringing this weakness, only for some silly political arguments.

* Will the strikes have an effect on the elections in Uttar Pradesh?

The issues in UP are too set and rooted to be pushed aside by this kind of talk. This will pass. This is not something which you can sustain for six months. They may get a little high today, but ultimately UP will decide on bread-and-butter issues.

* While the BJP’s top leadership is quiet, there are posters claiming credit for the strikes.

They can claim credit for anything they want… It is a democracy… Whether it is proper, whether it is good behaviour, it is not for me to judge… If they want to take credit, other parties will decide what they have to say.

* Did the Congress walk into a trap by reacting the way it did?

What trap? In history, it would have been recorded that the Congress did not do anything and was useless. If someone is trying to manipulate history, you are duty bound to ensure that history is not hijacked.

* As a former External Affairs Minister, what do you think is the way forward?

The same way that we used to take — talks. But as and when the time is ripe. Today, we are saying you decide what you want to do and we will support you. But if you have another way, other than the way that we took, go ahead and take it. What we felt was strategically necessary at that time, we did it without making any fanfare… We are here to support them. They never supported us. They always questioned our intentions and our ability.

* While tension was high even during your time, the back channels were open. Now that the NDA government has publicised the strikes, do you think that option is closed?

They are talking. Has (NSA Ajit) Doval talked or not. Let’s not take this country for a ride. We are not saying you don’t talk now, and not a single phone call should be made. It’s a complex situation. Leave it to the government to handle it the best way possible… I don’t want to put him in a position where he becomes self-conscious on whether he should pick up the phone or not. (It is) entirely up to them… good for us that we don’t have to face flak because we are not in the government.

* What if there is another terror attack?

A terror attack already happened in Baramulla…and there was no second surgical strike. We can’t pin them down saying that even if anybody uses a firecracker, there should be another surgical strike… Let them take their decisions in the best possible way. If they take that decision, we are here to support them. But don’t make the people believe that the problem has been resolved. Because it has not. Our self-esteem has certainly got a boost, but our problem is still there.

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  1. M
    MyTake
    Oct 6, 2016 at 3:58 am
    Smartie pants, what is happening today is because the Congress failed to build the capacity when it had all the time on its side and was busy only to fill up the pockets! lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;No point trying to become extraordinarily "intelligent" now!
    Reply
    1. S
      Sane Indian
      Oct 6, 2016 at 6:00 am
      Ooo! Look who is talking..F()(k!ng traitor No.1
      Reply
      1. M
        Mavala
        Oct 5, 2016 at 10:44 pm
        Licking is your plan?
        Reply
        1. A
          ak dev
          Oct 5, 2016 at 11:11 pm
          These Congee ba st ards have completely exposed their rubbish filled minds.
          Reply
          1. A
            ANJANI KUMAR
            Oct 6, 2016 at 4:13 am
            Khurshid ji really loves stan.lt;br/gt;How many are there who love ntanis ??.lt;br/gt;This is really not acceptable, loving is not bad but loving , when there is terrorism then You are not patritic
            Reply
            1. B
              Beyond Good
              Oct 6, 2016 at 3:43 am
              When stan is involved in state sponsored terrorism....Why should the Indian government talk with a rouge state!!! Enough of these talks and cultural shows... We dont want anything from Gutteristan from now ... �
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              1. M
                Mohammad Bin Tughlaq
                Oct 6, 2016 at 10:51 am
                A very good interview. The answer I liked best is "Question : You are asking for details. Your government kept the strikes a secret. Answer : Either don’t announce it, or if you want to announce it, then satisfy public curiosity.lt;br/gt;It need not have been announced first that a surgical strike was performed and some forty odd terrorists have been killed. It was nothing but blatant propaa for the BJP led present government. Once you do it half way you should finish it.
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                1. V
                  Vijayaraghavan
                  Oct 6, 2016 at 5:25 am
                  The Congress party's pool of 'spokesmen', most of whom are senior Supreme Court lawyers, is so large and experienced that the NDA's spokesmen are no match to them. Those who could have faced the challenge from the Congress party are ministers and the present lot are 'novices' before them. The DGMO who was in charge of the operations during UPA regime has said the present operations are totally different as compared to so called 'surgical strikes' by the opposition which were a response by the local commander. The opposition is helping our adversaries more by their comments at the PRESENT time.
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                  1. D
                    dipak
                    Oct 6, 2016 at 1:58 am
                    Talking like another jakir naik, indirectly supporting jehadi by clever arguments.lt;br/gt;India and people should understand that there are millions of traitors in India like him Short Parion are not yet complete.
                    Reply
                    1. R
                      Raghu Panjala
                      Oct 6, 2016 at 4:35 am
                      Excellent.
                      Reply
                      1. G
                        George Cruz
                        Oct 6, 2016 at 12:24 am
                        The party politics should be set aside when the nation's integrity/security are at risk but the anti-national/corrupt congress party has chosen to support the enemy, stan for political gains. The BJP/Modi's multi prong approach to contain Pak terror is gaining momentum and that would spell the total defeat and sunset for the corrupt communal congress party as well as the criminal party AAP.lt;br/gt;1. Economic isolation and building coalition using the SAARC summit and building coalition with SAARC members like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sr Lanka, etc lt;br/gt;2. Shutting all stan businesses in India and cancelling any trade deals.lt;br/gt;3. Well planned surgical strikes to shutdown Pak terror camps in the POK.lt;br/gt;4. Raising alarms and highlighting stan military atrocities in Balochistan/POK and making the globe aware of it.lt;br/gt;The anti-national congress party has already lost the mandate of the electorate and would spell sunset for the party and its anti-national leaders like Rahul hi/Sonia hi, Digvijay Singh, Salman Khurshid.tc.
                        Reply
                        1. S
                          Seshadri Iyengar
                          Oct 6, 2016 at 6:35 am
                          I do no understand how people like Khusshid are dug up from the grave by this newspaper and then post their opinion
                          Reply
                          1. K
                            Kim Sharma
                            Oct 6, 2016 at 9:28 am
                            Another attack anytime. Routine matter. Modi govt will be remembered for daily attacks from outside.Not a day pes without a Pak attack when Modi is in power. China enters Uttarakhand! Write down the name of all towns in JandK, Punjab... That is the legacy of Narendra Modi. Surgical strike won't happen every day and Modi would be judged by concrete results rather than well-bed schemes or initiatives across multiple fronts. Let us accept that the PoK attack is the sole good thing of the Modi govt that will have a result -- revenge attacks, war, or fewer infiltration across the JandK border - if we are fortunate. The PM was desperate to conduct the army operation as it was the perfect move to cover the failures of the government. As the saying goes, a war or similar act is the last resort of the incompetent. Modi has risked a war because of his folly and arrogance. Even Atalji endangered the country like Modi and made the world jittery about the prospects of a nuclear war. The debate will soon veer to whether Narendra Modi will leave a pathetic legacy or at least a mediocre one. (Let's be realistic). To avoid that Modi needs a spectacular event, far better than all other theatrical events that the pressutes help him stage. Mayawati said prophetically: “The Central government can go to war with stan on the issue of Kashmir and terrorism to divert people’s attention from the failure of the BJP and the Centre.” BJP likes war as it didn't build anything to fear destruction. Whatever we see around was not the contribution of BJP. Did India come up from a zero base in 7 years of BJP rule or 3 years of rule by OTHERS? Except for a few, the NDA ministers are duds. The same is the case of the BJP CMs.Pettiness is the hallmark of BJP leaders and their followers. They stoop to conquer. Experts at ridiculing rivals when they themselves are not adept at ruling a nation together. Unabashedly they speak on nationalism, when their contribution to nation-building is zilch. They have the gumption to speak on patriotism which they deem as mere waving of the tri-color.
                            Reply
                            1. K
                              KS KUMAR
                              Oct 6, 2016 at 1:35 am
                              Is there any credibility left in this gentleman? He goes to stan and described Nawaz Sharif as apostle of peace and also says that the relations are not normal because of Modi. He is a paid agent of Muslim countries and has always worked against interests of the country. Because of this, he lost his deposit in the 2014 elections and was placed 4th. It is not clear how IE selects these sort of persons for expressing views of national importance.
                              Reply
                              1. K
                                Kannan
                                Oct 6, 2016 at 6:17 am
                                Biryani server feeling the pinch of the pain. Take this news with some salt ur party and ur political reckonings are over and now reconcile to being a full time lawyer! Strange coincidence - why people with a first name as 'Salman' are so unsettled when the s are down in the dumps ?!
                                Reply
                                1. K
                                  krishna kumar
                                  Oct 6, 2016 at 10:31 am
                                  You, Congress has created Kashmir problem , you have fed biryani to captured militants, provided security to separatists leaders, never permitted forces to act, without permission, against stani forces,permitted stan's support to separatist leaders and letting them freely indulge in anti India and pro Pak propaa. How do yu justify that govt has not handled the situation correctly, when the militancy buildup and their infiltration was permitted during congress rule.
                                  Reply
                                  1. K
                                    Krishna
                                    Oct 6, 2016 at 2:17 am
                                    God, cobwebs! What utterly poor losers! Did their NGO dry up?!
                                    Reply
                                    1. K
                                      Krishna
                                      Oct 6, 2016 at 2:35 am
                                      They pay to get published.
                                      Reply
                                      1. R
                                        R.Mehta
                                        Oct 13, 2016 at 8:32 am
                                        The opposition parties like Congress ,AAP being well aware of the reasons for action taken by our Army are again wanting to know the reason and proof of surgical strikes. By this time most of the people know that in view of various incidences in last few months having taken place in our border States because of support from across the border and in view of Uri attacks, our govt. had no option but to respond in some manner to show that our Country cannot be taken for granted and thus if attempts are made to attack our forces and disturbance is caused by violant acts in our territories ,then the groups responsible for such attacks ,should be prepared to get the reply ,as already our Country has always remained on defensive and has preferred to resolve issues by talks view of this the prominent leaders of opposition parties instead of raising doubts about the claim of surigical strikes should support the ruling Govt. and instead of making it an issue for political gains ,should support the acts of the ruling Govt.as the same has been done in the interest of our forces and for the interest of every citizen of our Country.As claimed by Congress Leaders ,similar steps were taken under their tenure also ,but they did not consider the need to disclose it ,is a matter of their policy and is a thing of past and thus there is no point in raising the issue by them now. fact such claim by Leaders of Congress ,justifies the action taken now .Mr Khurshid while stating that prominent people should avoid discussion on this issue ,should send a message to his partymen ,who have been taking parts in the debates on the issue on various news channels and in the process have been making various statements ,which ought not to have been made.
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                                        1. K
                                          krishna
                                          Oct 6, 2016 at 3:37 am
                                          SK, MSI are all nuisance value of this country. With whom he wants talk? The Pak Civilians? The Rules? The Millitary? and The Jihadists? or The ISI? Which group he want to talk? What happens if you some of this groups?? Looks like he is not being attended even by a house-fly! So he wants some attention. My best suggestion to him. Come to Delhi to live there are lots Dengue mosquitoes which can give him good company to talk!!!
                                          Reply
                                          1. A
                                            Avinash
                                            Oct 6, 2016 at 3:37 am
                                            Khurshid ji: Last time you visited the Reds as a Foreign Minister, you expressed a desire to live in Beijing. Are you still thinking the same?
                                            Reply
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