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The Ambassador Naresh Chandra Chat

India's Ambassador to the US Naresh Chandra, appeared on the Rediff Chat, the day after Indian Air Force aircraft fired on a Pakistan air force surveillance plane. The former Cabinet secretary was eloquent, in the face of some very virulent interrogation. Check out the transcript.

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 6:57 IST)
I am very happy to have the opportunity to communicate with so many interested people on issues of importance to all of us. Deepak, thank you for your good wishes. People of Indian origin and NRIs are doing a great job and all I can suggest is that all should keep themselves informed and interact meaningfully with our American friends to point out areas of mutual interest and concerns. This way we can utilise the India-US relationship for the benefit of the South Asia region as a whole.

Deepak Nautiyal (Wed Aug 11 1999 5:44 IST)
Dear Mr Chandra, Congratulations to you and your staff at Washington DC for doing such a wonderful job in presenting India's case during the Kargil crisis. What do you think that the NRI community in US should do to better represent India. Best regards, Deepak

Marie (Wed Aug 11 1999 6:17 IST)
Hello Mr Chandra, a hearty congratulations to you on a job well done. Sir, what repercussions do you see happening in the latest series of incidents when yesterday India downed a Pakistani surveillance plane and today they fired a missle at us. Do you agree that the main battle will be won on the diplomatic battleground? Are we prepared for it?

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 6:59 IST)
Marie: Thank you. I agree with you that the solution does not lie in military activity. Diplomacy is a better option, but the best option is for improving people-to-people relations. There is a lot of goodwill in India for people in Pakistan and I am sure many sections of Pakistani people reciprocate this feeling. What we have to prepare for is to do everything possible to counter misinformation and propaganda and promote more understanding between the peoples for their mutual benefit and development.

Govardhan (Wed Aug 11 1999 6:19 IST)
Hello Ambassador I get a feeling watching CNN that they are more pro-Pakistan! When India says Pakistan attacked us it is 'the alleged intrusion on Indian territory' Sartaz Aziz goes away scot free telling lies and a lot of video footage.....doesn't that biase the world against us?

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:0 IST)
Govardhan: News from CNN or BBC for that matter does appear to present a one sided picture at times. We are trying our best to submit complete information to counter this. All of us can react to wrong reports by writing to the media concerned. On many occasions analysts and reporters have made comments which clearly show that they have not believed the Pakistani propaganda.

Harish Thawani (Wed Aug 11 1999 6:21 IST)
Mr Chandra, India has been at odds with Pakistan since Independence.... How do you see us resolving our differences? Is there a middle road? What in your opinion is the best solution? Why can't we demarcate the border properly once and for all?

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:2 IST)
Harishji: It is unfortunate that India and Pakistan have been at odds, but believe me there is a middle road and people of South Asia are increasingly realising that their future lies in co-operation and economic development. To reach this best solution we have to counter terrorist and propagandist activity, i e discourage the wrong set of people and encourage the more responsible sections for our mutual benefit.

al (Wed Aug 11 1999 6:28 IST)
Sir, We showed restraint in not crossing the LOC during the Kargil crisis. The Americans sheepishly acknowledged our action. The Pakistani regulars vacated their positions and littered them with mines. Are we still patting our backs on presenting a stong case of intrusion and forgotten these acts?

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:4 IST)
al: I don't think the Americans were sheepish in acknowledging our restraint. My information is that the American authorities were very frank with the Pakistani authorities since they knew the facts about Pakistani aggression into the Kargil area. While the Indian troops did a great job in pushing the intruders back, American help shortened the period of conflict and reduce casualties. The American attitude was also responsible for a diplomatic disaster for Pakistan.

anil (Wed Aug 11 1999 6:29 IST)
anil: Hello Mr Chandra. It is true that Kargil has indeed changed US perceptions towards India -- albeit to a small extent. That is certainly encouraging. But do we -- the Government of India, the diplomatic corps and you people on the spot who are the pointmen -- have the big picture in mind? A comprehensive strategy to put Indo-US relations on a truly collaborative course? If so, what are its salient features?

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:8 IST)
Anil: US perceptions about India and Pakistan have been changing for some time. Kargil only helped to bring out in the open. US and other Western countries as well as China are concerned at the growth of fanaticism and fundamentalism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Kargil was the latest example of a very dangerous nexus between terrorists and a professional army. This has alarmed most countries who in a friendly way are also deeply concerned about the adverse affect on Pakistani society itself. We have the big picture in mind and our attempt is not to show Pakistan down but to normalise the situation and bring about the necessary atmosphere for meaningful dialogue and co-operation with them. That is the big picture we have for India-Pakistan and other people in South Asia.

Hegde (Wed Aug 11 1999 6:33 IST)
Mr Chandra - Congratulations on your great work. Why do you think the American media is pro-Pakistan? Do they take a cue from the US government?

divyeshmehta (Wed Aug 11 1999 6:50 IST)
hi the plane incident will call for a lot of media savvy interaction. How do you plan to do this? Dr Divyesh G Mehta, MD, Vadodara

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:12 IST)
Hello Mr Hegde and Divyesh Mehta. Both of you have raised the question about the attitude of the American media. It does appear at times that the American media is pro-Pakistan. We have to note that there is an elaborate machinery for information and public relations being used by Pakistan for pushing their point of view. Sometimes they succeed. Whenever this occurs we make every attempt to clarify the position.

As a policy we have not been conducting aggressive propaganda in a country like the USA because we feel that it is counter-productive in the long run. On the other hand, the Pakistani side has been putting undue and exaggerated emphasis on propaganda. This certainly helps in the short run, but true facts ultimately assert themselves.

Consequently, there has been a great loss of credibility in statements made by officials and other agencies of Pakistan. Many thinkers and analysts in the US have told me that Pakistan should spend more time in communicating with their neighbours rather than in publicity and public relations.

Shahezadi (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:7 IST)
Mr Ambassador, one has heard so much of the gripe that Indian officials are lacklustre, they lack chutzpah which presumably the Pakis have in abundance, etc, and that these are the reasons we are unable to communicate our viewpoint to the world, leave alone convince it. As the man in the hot seat, what do you think?

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:16 IST)
Hello Shahezadi. I do not share with your view about lustre or the lack of it of Indian officials. The main issue is that Indian officials do not put propaganda and public relations at the centre of our actions. In the long run, being too media savvy or clever results in loss of credibility. Your very question suggests that the Indian case is better but has sufferred because of inadequate presentation; also, that there is too much lustre and chutzpah in the Pakistani presentation. This by itself suggests that the Pakistani case is worse than its presentation and the Indian case is better than what it has been projected to be. What do you infer from this?

Doc (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:14 IST)
Amnesty International recently reported that India is holding thousands of political prisoners without charge or trial. 29 members of the US Congress recently wrote a letter demanding the release of India's political prisoners. Why does a democracy have political prisoners?

Lyes Ezzekmi (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:6 IST)
Amnesty International recently reported thatIndia is holding thousands of political prisoners without charge or trial. 29 members of the US Congress recently wrote a letter demanding the release of India's political prisoners. Why does a democracy have political prisoners?

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:25 IST)
Lyes Ezzekmi and Doc: We have seen reports of Amnesty International over the years. We also find a question about genocide and the number of Sikhs killed in India since 1984. Let me first of all say that we in India take all these reports and allegations very seriously. The people of India abhor violation of human rights and the press, Parliament and judiciary are not only critical but insistent on full investigation and punishment of those who are guilty.

At the same time, it would be irresponsible on our part to be swayed by false propaganda. Much of the reports of Amnesty or other NGOs are one sided statements of allegations and charges. These are not in the nature of judgements pronounced after hearing both sides. There is also increasing tendency for using propaganda and baseless allegations as a supportive tool of terrorist activity. Our investigation by the government agencies, by the National Human Rights Commission and so many NGOs in India show that a number of cases were simply cooked up or exaggerated to absurd limits.

It is to be seen that the Indian system has adequate strength and will to deal with the problem of human rights violation and that external help of well meaning bodies is hardly required. At times it is counter-productive. I find that whenever action has been taken in suitable cases, it is hardly acknowledged.

A number of people have been punished and imprisoned after the 1984 Sikh riots. Many are still being prosecuted in courts. This fact is never brought out. Police officers have been removed from service and at times imprisoned whenever charges could be established against them. I don't think India needs sermons from outside about their capacity to deal with human rights violation.

Gurpreet Singh Dhillon (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:7 IST)
Mr. Ambassador, If we could turn our attention for a moment to the happenings inside "the world's largest democracy", I would appreciate a response to the following question: When will the people of Khalistan, Kashmir, Nagaland, and the other minority nations within India's borders be allowed to exercise their right of self-determination in a free and fair vote, the democratic way? America is a democracy that allows Puerto Rico to vote on whether to stay with the United States. Canada is a democracy that allows Quebec to vote on whether to stay within Canada. When will India follow their democratic example?

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:33 IST)
Sardar Gurdeep Singh Dhillon: Thank you for acknowledging India as the world's largest democracy. Let me first inform you that all the people in India whether in Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir or in Nagaland have a right to free and fair vote and they are all proud to be part of one great nation. I am aware that a hopeless minority is still dreaming of so-called minority nations. These are people who have lost all contact with the people of these areas and unnecessarily dream of things which are patently untrue.

In the recent conflict at Kargil soldiers from all these areas as well as other states stood united and fought bravely to repel the intruders. These brave soldiers included Sikhs, people from Jammu & Kashmir, Nagaland, Muslims and members of all other communities in India. I think, insinuations contained in your question constitute an insult to the bravery and national spirit of these true Indians.

I was in India recently and many officers of our armed forces belonging to various minority communities were very unhappy at some of the statements which were made by members of their community "flourishing" outside and shedding tears on their behalf without lifting a finger to help in their development.

Mr Dhillon you have suggested the example of America and Canada. You have forgotten the example set by President Abraham Lincoln in the 19th century. You have also forgotten that people of all states in India have been taking part in various elections and electing their state governments. There is no demand at all of the type you are imagining in these states.

To take the example of Sikhs in particular, I am sure you will be very happy to know that they are not only flourishing in Punjab but also in all other parts of India. They are held in high esteem for their courage, hard work and enterprise and that is why they are the most successful community in India. Please do not attempt to belittle their contribution to India by harping on demands which they just do not have.

Sanjai K (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:19 IST)
Ambassador Chandra, the Clinton administration has thus far rebuffed India's request to have Pakistan declared a terrorist state? Why should India take the US seriously on South Asian issues, if it persists in turning a blind eye to Pakistani terrorism?

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:36 IST)
Sanjai: The Clinton administration has to decide about Pakistan being a terrorist state according to their own law. There is no question of India making a formal application in this respect. However, the facts about developments in Pakistan are well known. What the activities of Pakistani agencies are in India are invariably brought to the notice of all friendly governments including the United States. Our view is that there is a lot of evidence of Pakistani agencies supporting terrorist activity in India and other countries in the neighbourhood. This is something which US administration keeps under constant view.

guru (Wed Aug 11 1999 6:54 IST)
welcome Mr Ambassador. I like the way you present India's case as an invitee in CNN but yesterday, I felt that your answer to the question why India is not allowing Western journalists to verify their claim fell far short of my expectations. I was wondering if you had improper briefing on it by the Indian government. Your comments please.

guru (Wed Aug 11 1999 6:59 IST)
Jai hind Mr Ambassador. Was there a considerable delay before you could be properly briefed by the indian government before yesterday's interview on CNN?

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:42 IST)
Guru: Yes, flow of information from India is fast and quite efficient. About India not allowing Western journalists to verify their claim, the question related to their being taken to the site. I did not say that Western journalists may not be allowed to verify their claim. In fact, material from the fallen aircraft has been shown to Western journalists.

What I said that there is no point in taking the journalists to the site because all that will be available on the marshy land would be bits and pieces of fallen aircraft. Another thing that you have to understand is that Pakistan is always trying to bring in third parties to internationalise any situation. India does not want to be in the position of a petitioner or a litigant presenting a case before a court of Western journalists.

There is something smacking of the old colonial era to treat Western journalists on a pedestal where representatives of developing countries present the case to them for their consideration. At any rate the issue is well settled that the encounter took place on the Indian side of the international border. You will see that there was no improper briefing as far as we are concerned.

aslimog (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:32 IST)
The country is full of sanctimonious civil servants. I once sat next to an IFS type on a plane, and asked him what he did, he said I am from the IFS I said fine but what do you DO and he did not have an answer. Ambassador (Mark ?) question, what do you DO???

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:45 IST)
aslimog: Your question indicates that you are an expert of civil servants but it seems that you got the opportunity only once to sit next to an IFS type. I do not know who was the one suffering from acute indigestion at that time. I would suggest you take a course of antacids before you get on to the Internet next.

Andrew Ball (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:18 IST)
Why did the Indian foreign minister organize and lead a meeting with the ambassadors from China, Cuba, Russia, Iraq, Libya, and Serbia "to stop the US?" Why is a democratic country in league with these tyrannical dictatorships?

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:48 IST)
Andrew Ball: I am not aware of which meeting was organised and led with the ambassadors from China, Cuba, Russia, Iraq, Libya and Serbia. This is not correct. You should see the record of some of the developed countries in this respect who have had remarkably cosy relationships with dictators at one time or the other. India's record is much superior in this respect.

Deepak (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:46 IST)
Dear Ambassador, In this day and age of Information technology, why is India slow to bring infrastructural facilities within India to allow for rapid growth of the IT industry? Could you shed some light on the BJP government's efforts in this direction?

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:50 IST)
Deepak: You have raised an important question on information technology. I agree that we have to expedite provision of infra-structural facilities within India to allow a more rapid growth of the IT industry. You, of course, know that IT business has grown manifold in India in recent years. But I agree that much more remains to be done. The present government set up a high powered committee on IT whose major recommendations are being implemented. This report took suggestions and views of experts in India and abroad and their recommendations have been well received. The finance minister has given many incentives to the IT industry and this is a very high priority programme for us.

George Varghese (Wed Aug 11 1999 7:51 IST)
NRIs do not get appropriate feedback from the embassy on the latest situation in India. Your website needs to be updated on a continuous basis and publicity for the same should be given through the print and other visual media.

Ambassador Naresh Chandra (Wed Aug 11 1999 8:1 IST)
There are many interesting questions which I would have liked to respond to but I am told I have already taken more than the allotted time. I would, therefore, give some general replies which would cover a number of questions without my identifying the questioners by name.

1. About information to people of Indian origin, NRIs and others, I would like to say that our embassy website gives updated information on all major issues on a continuous basis. This could be accessed by Mr Varghese and others. Those interested also send us their email addresses.

2. On the question of human rights, it is difficult to answer specific cases just now. However, I would earnestly request that in such cases a detailed letter may be written to me for inquiry and that I would get all the facts from India. Our National Human Rights Commission is headed by a former Chief Justice of India. They have sufficient status and powers to deal with such complaints.

However, I would request my friends living in the US not to believe one-sided version and propaganda. Much of these allegations are manufactured by unfriendly governmental agencies and vested interests, some of whom are in league with declared unlawful organisations. It would be a pity if well meaning persons fall prey to such manipulations.

3. There are a number of questions on Kargil and beyond. In brief, the Government of India policy is to limit the possibility of any further escalation and to take all meaningful steps in a spirit of restraint to normalise the situation as soon as possible. This does not mean that India would remain inactive and passive in the face of provocative and terrorist activity.

Our approach is two fold. First, to encourage all responsible sections to create a proper atmosphere for dialogue and negotiations and secondly to discourage the hawkish and irresponsible elements in pursuing a violent course of action. Only with a minimum level of trust and confidence can disputes and issues be resolved at a diplomatic level. 4. Many of the questions posed today were very supportive of our case and somehow it is these questions that I have not been able to respond to today. 5. I thank all of you for coming on to the chat show and doing me the honour of listening to my answers. Have a good day.