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December 19, 2001
0323 IST

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War last option in combating terrorism: Abdullah

Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi

Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that 'force, violence and war would not be the government's first option' in countering terrorism inspired by Pakistan.

Participating in the extended debate on the December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament House, Abdullah, however, made it clear that 'if need be, the government would use force as a last resort in defending the integrity and unity of the country'.

The minister's assertion came in the wake of opposition criticism that the government would be making a wrong move if Indian forces crossed the Line of Control in pursuit of terrorists.

In a remarkable speech loudly applauded by the treasury benches, the young minister countered the opposition's criticism point by point.

He said there was no need to harp on the issue that a war with Pakistan would be dangerous because both sides possess nuclear weapons.

While underlining that this was his personal opinion, he argued that geography ought to be considered when talking about an Indo-Pak nuclear conflict.

"If one considers the size of India and that of Pakistan, it will be evident who will come out of the ashes in such a conflict," he said, amid much cheering from the treasury benches.

He said that while the government would firmly counter terrorism with every resource at its command, the opposition need not raise needless issues to try and extract political capital.

He said, "If the National Democratic Alliance government were an irresponsible government, we would have crossed the LoC after Kargil."

He denied the opposition's charge that the December 13 attack had resulted from a security lapse.

"Parliament and I would not have been here today if there had been a security lapse," he remarked.

Referring to the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, Abdullah said he was mentioning it to put things in perspective.

"A law to ban terrorist organisations and [freeze] their funds is necessary," he asserted.

Responding to criticism of the telephone intercept clause in POTO, he said it was called for because 'terrorists will not write a letter to me to say that I am on top of their hit list'.

He wondered why, if tapping telephone conversations was fine to unearth match-fixing in cricket, it could not be used against terrorists.

Regarding the provision for admissibility of confessions made to a police officer, he asked, "How else will the terrorists' associates who have been apprehended be brought to book?"

But when the minister said that 'not all Muslims are Pakistanis and not all Kashmiris are terrorists', there was an uproar with opposition members like Akhilesh Singh (Samajwadi Party), Ramdas Athawale (Republican Party of India) and Somnath Chatterjee (CPI-M) telling Abdullah to tell the BJP members this.

Thereafter, Speaker G M C Balayogi had to use his persuasive prowess to restore order in the House.

Earlier, opposition members, including Mulayam Singh Yadav, Somnath Chatterjee, Priyaranjan Dasmunshi and Chandra Shekhar, launched a broadside at the government for its alleged failure to beef up security around Parliament House, despite knowing that it was likely to be a target.

Complete Coverage: The Attack on Parliament

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