Terror is international crisis: Pranab
He is PM's number two, leader of the House in LS and India’s representative to the world. Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee spoke to Political Editor Vinod Sharma about tackling terrorism and chauvinistic forces represented by the likes of Raj Thackeray.india Updated: Nov 01, 2008 11:08 IST
Q) Are Bangladesh-based groups with Pakistani linkages behind the Guwahati serial blasts? Is Pakistan using Bangladeshi territory to launch terror attacks on India?
A) We have had this type of information and we have been sharing it with the Pakistani authorities. Umpteen times, we have brought to Dhaka's notice the presence of camps and insurgent groups operating from Bangladesh to India. When Khaleda Zia was Prime Minister, I personally mentioned to her the number of places and number of cases (of terrorist activities). But all along, Bangladesh's attitude has been of flat denials. I am not quite sure. But there are reports that certain agencies and elements of Pakistan might be involved with terrorists and insurgent groups that have the tendency of building linkages with terrorist groups operating in other parts of the world. Terrorism has no respect for boundaries.
Q) Have you drawn your Bangladeshi counterpart's attention to the Guwahati blasts?
A) Information is shared on a regular basis through institutional mechanisms such as meetings at the level of foreign and home secretaries.
Q) Amid frequent terrorist attacks, economic slowdown, loss of jobs and chauvinistic, parochial sentiments are at their ugliest. One gets a feeling that there is no government at the Centre or in states.
A) India cannot be insulated from major international crisis in the area of money and finance. Similarly, terrorism and insurgency have a long history in India. I told the UN Secretary General that we are, as a country, the worst sufferers of cross-border terrorism. Unfortunately, various terrorist groups have attacked in a short span of time this year. As for the performance of various state governments, it's substantially due to the body politic that has degenerated. You cannot expect better result if politics is based on caste, religion and communalism. You may blame the government of the day. But if the rot starts from the stem and is manifested at the top, you have to go at the root to have the redress. (The answer is) is secular politics that does not compromise with terrorism. The BJP from the top of the house is shouting for a strong law but one has to be convinced as to how a strong law will help.
Could POTA prevent the attack on Parliament or the J&K Assembly? The point I'm making is that terrorist incidents occurred when there was a strong law and they are occurring when-- as per the allegations of the principal Opposition party--- there is no strong law. But it's not factually correct to say there is no strong law. All the hard elements of POTA or TADA have been incorporated in the regular Indian Penal Code. The fact is that you cannot rule merely by law. There is a famous saying of political philosopher Thomas Hill Green. When he was asked what the basis of State is, he said "Will, not force, is the basis of State." This aspect has to be kept in mind.
Q) But the will isn't coming across very clearly.
A) You shouldn't expect it to come merely from the government of the day. It has to come from the body politic, from the people. The political parties that are coming up today are propagating hatred. What is happening in Maharashtra, Orissa or Karnataka?
Q) How is Vilasrao Deshmukh any different from Naveen Patnaik? One backed the chauvinistic Raj Thackeray and the other the communal Bajrang Dal.
A) I am not discussing individual parties. The point I'm making is that it becomes difficult to handle the situation if the entire body politic is vitiated.
Q) How can the CM of national party like the Congress be sitting on his hands to let Raj Thackeray's goons hold the State to ransom?
A) I am not going to make any comment (on Vilasrao's conduct). Only the party spokesman can explain it. I am on the symptoms. For instances, the Guwahati blasts were followed by television images of street urchins who were inciting, throwing stone. They could be seen taking out things from the boots of the waiting cars. Who were they?
Q) You mean there was a political force behind the post-blasts mob-frenzy?
A) I don't know which force. Or who are they? The investigating agencies will be able to identify them after going through the footage. Perhaps it was in Ganeshpuri or somewhere.
Q) The onus for forging a national response to such threats is primarily on the party in power that in the instant case is the Congress-led UPA.
A) This is over-simplification of the problem. Just a couple of weeks back we had a meeting of the National Integration Council marked by the absence of the Leader of Opposition L K Advani. His party president Rajnath Singh was present and he made a comment that Advani was not invited.
Q) Advani was invited as an eminent person.
A) If he does not come then what can be done. The NIC was held in the context of what is happening. Good words were said (at the meeting). But what's important is the implementation of what is stated.
Q) It's alleged the Congress' political priorities in Maharashtra are coming in the way of tough action against Raj's MNS.
A) The question isn't of tough or soft action. This is not a new phenomenon. The Shiv Sena had declared at the Villa Parle by-election that it did not want Muslim votes. That election was cancelled long before they came to power in Maharashtra. Even after that they were given respectability (by the BJP) by sharing power at the Centre and in the State. If you allow these things to go on, parties based on caste, religion and communities will grow, leaving an adverse effect on the system. Each one of us should remember that when we raise an accusing finger at others, we have two pointing towards us.
Q) The BJP is known for its exclusive politics, but in Maharashtra where the Congress is in power….
A) I am sorry I cannot comment on Maharashtra. You may be obsessed with Maharashtra or Assam. But you did not see this obsession when Christians were burnt alive and nuns were raped in Kandhamal and churches were burnt in Karnataka. Please don't be exclusive in your objectivity.
Q) The same tough questions were asked of Naveen Patnaik.
A) It's not about Patnaik, Vilasrao Deshmukh or Tarun Gogoi. We are talking about the state of play at the national level, the Centre, where the politics of consensus has been destroyed by the BJP from day one. Look at their performance in Parliament. The Ministers accountable to the 14th Lok Sabha were prevented from being introduced in the House. There hasn't been a single session of Parliament that was not disturbed at least for a few days. You cannot destroy one institution after another and yet expect that every thing will go on as usual.
Q) Even the PM hasn't kept his promise of reverting to Parliament after finalising the nuclear deal with the US.
A) When the PM said it on July 22, after that the voting took place and the trust motion was carried. Before that, the deal was discussed as many as seven times on the floor of the House. The PM was not allowed to read his speech before the vote. You will demand a statement from the PM but not allow him to make it in the House.
Q) You mean to say the trust vote was good enough.
A) Of course. That was the crucial test. Go through the entire debate and (find out) what it was except the nuclear deal. Are we naïve or are we children? The speeches, whether for or against the motion, were on the nuclear deal. But when the PM was to reply, the minimum, elementary courtesy (of listening to him) was not extended. That is the worst crime they (the BJP) have committed against the parliamentary system. Before raising their accusing finger, they should stand before the mirror and see what they have done to this country.