P Chidambaram is a seasoned politician who took over the reins of the Home Ministry at a time when the country was facing a serious security situation immediately after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
With bombs exploding at an incessant frequency, Chidambaram had a job in hand to bring normalcy in the country. Two years down the line, a lot many things have changed. The country is feels safer now as terror incidents have come down significantly.
In an exclusive chat with Swati Chaturvedi of Zeenews.com on ‘Kahiye Janab’, the Union Home Minister talks about Pakistan, China, Kashmir, Naxalism and much more.
Swati Chaturvedi: Do you think the attitude of Pakistan has changed post 26/11?
P Chidambaram: I don’t think we can say that there is a change in the attitude of Pakistan. Though ministers make positive statements, but we have not seen any change on the ground. Therefore, we need to remain vigilant because the establishment there supports or at least condones terror activities from its soil.
Swati: Pakistan talks about state actors and non-state actors but a common man feels that these are all alibis of the politicians. Do you agree?
PC: State actors and non-state actors are all a myth. I have never accepted it. In fact, I have rejected it. If a source of terrorist activity is emanating from its soil and that is directed towards India, then the Pakistan government is solely responsible for stopping it. Whether that source is a state actor or a non-state actor is completely immaterial.
A non-state actor cannot function without conniving with the state actors. So, it is the responsibility of the Pakistan government that no one uses its territory for committing crimes against India.
Swati: After 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, Pakistan talked a lot about cooperation but hasn’t given us access to suspects. They have only given partial access to FBI. Why are we still talking to Pakistan?
PC: We can’t say that we won’t talk to anyone. What after that? Our stand is very clear. You must eliminate terrorism from your soil. We are willing to engage and talk to you on matters concerning terrorism. There is nothing wrong in it. We are not resuming composite dialogue and I don’t see there is anything wrong in talking to Pakistan. In this world we have to talk. There is no substitute to talking.
Swati: The US is running away from Afghanistan. Our establishments have been attacked there. Do you think the threat for India has increased substantially because of these developments?
PC: I don’t think the US is running away from Afghanistan. They have set a date to begin withdrawal of troops but that doesn’t mean that they are going to withdraw overnight. America is going to be present there in one form or the other for some more time.
If Taliban gains upper hand in Afghanistan and joins hands with Pakistan Taliban then surely the threat to India increases.
Taliban is not only a threat to security but they are also a threat to other aspects of life because they have a position on women, education and culture etc. too. Therefore, this development will surely add to the threat faced by India.
Swati: Do you spend sleepless nights thinking about it?
PC: I don’t spend sleepless nights because that will neither help me nor the country. Sleep is necessary for a healthy life. We should behave like a mature, confident nation and that will come from building capacity and improving intelligence gatherings. That is what we are doing.
Swati: The ‘unholy’ alliance of China and Pakistan is a cause of serious concern for India?
PC: China and Pakistan have had a close relationship for many years. China is an arms supplier to Pakistan. We also know that China has proliferated nuclear capability and the beneficiary is Pakistan.
But that doesn’t mean we should regard either country as our enemy. We have to deal with both Pakistan and China. Security and diplomacy are not black and white affairs. We have to be constantly on guard.
Swati: For the first time in 2008, the NH-1 was blocked due to protests in the Kashmir valley. The valley was cut off from the rest of the country. Is it linked to the recent unrest in Kashmir?
PC: Kashmir is a problem that has been there for many years. In the past two years, many sincere efforts have been made to find a solution. We have not found a solution. The longer you take to find a solution, the more acute the problem becomes. We are committed to sustained and uninterrupted dialogue till we find a solution.
What happened in 2008 in Kashmir was the fallout of the land that was transferred for Amarnath Yatra. That situation should have been handled carefully and differently. But we should remember that Jammu & Kashmir had just witnessed five years of peace. The time was excellent till June 10, 2010. After that there has been a bad patch. But I hope that the bad patch ended on September 30, 2010 when the government announced a series of measures. This time, we will carry on an uninterrupted dialogue till we find a solution.
Swati: There was a lot of controversy over J&K CM Omar Abdullah’s remarks. Why did the Central government support him on this?
PC: Please read the whole text of his speech. He has categorically said that Jammu & Kashmir will remain a part of India. He was describing the history of J&K’s accession and he was absolutely right. His comments are historically accurate.
Swati: In your opinion as a Home Minister, has Omar Abdullah done his job properly?
PC: He is a young chief minister who runs one of the most complex states of India with a coalition government. Mistakes had been made but not all that he has done is wrong. He has done a number of things that are right and his intentions are good and genuine. Let’s give him some time to work.
Swati: What are the promises that we can actually keep on Kashmir?
PC: Kashmir acceded to India under unique circumstances; therefore we have to find a unique solution to J&K problem. One has to understand what the people of Jammu & Kashmir want. We should not translate the word ‘Azadi’ literally into freedom.
We are over-simplifying the issue. We must talk to the people and find out what they want and see whether those aspirations can be accommodated in our federal system.
Swati: People accuse you of taking a hard line on the Naxal problem…
PC: You should look at my speeches. I have always emphasized on a two-pronged approach. One aspect is police action and the other is development. Whether police action should take place first or the development depends upon the area.
The Naxal problem has become acute because we neglected it for long. We were living in denial. When MCCI and PWG joined hands in 2004 that was the time when we should have taken a resolute action or invited them for talks, but we did neither. We simply ignored it so it became a bigger problem.
Now, we are dealing with an armed liberation struggle. We have to deal with this problem. Today, we have a strategy and a clear policy and if we remain patient, then we will be able to solve the problem in 3 to 5 years.
Swati: When people like Mamata Banerjee, who are bleeding heart liberals, are in the system, how can you tell the security forces to take on the system?
PC: Forces have clear directions. They are placed under the state governments. The Central forces don’t act independently. Forces are given to West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa. Now we have got an IG from the paramilitary and IG from the state, who is IG Operations. Side by side, the civil administration decides on the progress. If you remain patient, the tide will definitely turn in favour of the government.
Swati: Last time when you were on ‘Kahiye Janab’, you had said that you wanted to teach and write a book. You still want to do that?
PC: I really want time to travel, to read and to write. And to teach also, if someone is willing to be taught. I can’t teach to an empty classroom. I have an intense desire to travel, read and write and I have to find time for it within this lifetime.
Swati: Which is the most challenging ministry - Finance or Home? Which one do you like?
PC: They are two different jobs. They can’t be compared. In terms of workload of files, Finance Ministry is a heavier job. Home Ministry is different. Here, instrumentality has to be kept alert and sharp. They are both different jobs and can’t be compared.
My approach is very clear. I do my job. I don’t have to enjoy my job. I do my job and I try to do it to the best of my ability.
Adaptation: Sharique N Siddiquie