Washington: Voicing concern over Pakistan’s inaction against perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks, including Hafiz Saeed, India on Tuesday warned that its restraint should not be confused with weakness and said it is “very, very difficult” to resume composite dialogue at present.
“... please realise that there are groups in Pakistan that continue to follow an agenda of violence, of hatred,” foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in response to a question from a Lahore-based Pakistani national who asked why India was refusing to restart the composite dialogue with Pakistan which itself was a victim of terrorism.
“I did not want to bring the name of Hafiz Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Dawah and the LeT ... we feel (they) continue to roam, to speak, to be allowed unhindered access to media, to channels to communicate that agenda (of violence).. that effects us, our people are concerned about it,” Rao said.
The general feeling in India right now is: “We have suffered too much for too long,” she said.
“It is very, very difficult to be convinced in such a situation that we should set aside these concerns and just move on. And that is why, I said when you talk of resuming composite dialogue (it) becomes very, very difficult to do that in the current situation,” Rao said.
At the same time, she said the door for talks with Pakistan had never been shut.
India has always condemned terrorist attack inside Pakistan,“ Rao, who is in the US on a six-day visit, said. “We have never in any way condoned that. We condemn it whole heartedly.”
Earlier in her address also, she ruled out resumption of composite dialogue with Pakistan till Islamabad guarantees that terrorism can be controlled by its authorities.
“Today, Pakistan claims that it is in no position to give us such a guarantee that terrorism can be controlled by its authorities. In such a situation, the people of India who are already bitterly affected by the series of terrorist attacks directed against them, can hardly be expected to support the resumption of a full-blown Composite Dialogue with Pakistan,” Rao said.
She asserted that despite the brazen and malignant nature of the threats India face, New Delhi has made several genuine efforts to restore trust and confidence.
“Aggressive pronouncements by persons identified by the world as terrorists continue to be made openly against India. Distinctions made between the various terrorist outfits are now meaningless, since they are now in effect fused both operationally and ideologically,” she said.
“We have consistently emphasised the need for governments concerned to act decisively to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and to effectively deal with groups that perpetrate it.”
However, Rao said, “our restraint should not be confused with weakness or unwillingness to act against those that seek to harm our people, create insecurity and hamper our developmental goals.”
“It is also important that there are strict accountability criteria that apply to defence assistance rendered to Pakistan for operations against terrorists and insurgents on the border with Afghanistan,” Rao said.
New Delhi’s past experience regarding such assistance has taught it to be vigilant to the possibility of the aid being used “for purposes that generate tension and hostile actions against India,” the foreign secretary said.
“We do not have aggressive designs against Pakistan and we want it to be a stable and prosperous country. But we will be vigilant about our security. That is our sovereign right.”
Rao said India has time and again made genuine attempts to address outstanding issues, most importantly, the issue of terrorism through dialogue with Pakistan. “My meeting with my Pakistani counterpart (Salman Bashir on February 25) represented the latest such move.”
Despite the provocations India has faced constantly from terrorists whose linkages it has traced back to Pakistani soil, New Delhi has not abandoned the path of dialogue, she said.
“And in our recent meeting, India’s approach was to focus on our concerns regarding terrorism, pending humanitarian issues and some bilateral visits that have been planned or spoken of, but have not taken place,” Rao said.
“But it continues to be our conviction that for this dialogue to really make progress, Pakistan should take meaningful steps to address our concerns on terrorism, and cease the encouragement of terrorism targeted against India.”
Turning to Afghanistan, Rao said the recent attacks on Indians were aimed at forcing India out of the war-torn nation and ruled out scaling down New Delhi’s operations there.
“We are not scaling down our operations in Afghanistan, we are taking all necessary security measures to safeguard Indian lives there,” she said in response to a question.
Rao said there was “no quick solution” to the Af-Pak situation and “it was important for international community, in its own interest, to stay the present course for as long as it was necessary.”
About Sino-India ties, she said the relationship has improved significantly in the last two decades and the two neighbours are discussing ways to resolve their border issue.
“The rise of China and the rise of India has become an object of world attention. I think, in both the countries, we see a competitive edge but we also see a greater degree of collaboration between the two counties,” Rao said. “There is peace on our borders with China.”
On the Indo-US relationship, she said the conclusion of the civil nuclear Agreement in 2008 was “a major definitive milestone” in bilateral ties.
The implementation of the deal is “proceeding smoothly and satisfactorily”, she said. “We are in the process of operationalising the agreement through close coordination between our two governments.”
The nuclear liability bill is likely to be introduced in India Parliament after the recess, Rao — who is set to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor James Jones and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns — said replying to a query.