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'We cannot manage rising expectations'
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October 19, 2005

The biggest challenge for India is internal cohesion, says National Security Adviser M K Narayanan.

"When people talk in terms of nuclear deterrent etc it's necessary, but the first one would really be internal cohesion," he told Managing Editor (National Affairs) Sheela Bhatt and Editor-in-Chief Nikhil Lakshman.

'No cause can justify terrorism'

In the concluding part of this comprehensive interview, Narayanan discussed the country's security requirements and people's rising expectations.

The government has outlined its anti-hijacking policy. Fundamental to it is a swift response. We saw in December 1999 -- when IC-814 landed in Amritsar [Images] when the Crisis Management Cell didn't even meet. Since the policy is probably drafted by you, is there a process to ensure a swift response?

Things are there.

What prevents a swift response? Is the machinery getting tardy because nothing happens? You don't have a hijacking for several years and everything sort of slows down. I think that is mainly what happened in Amritsar.

Part I: 'Bush impressed by our democracy'

We are hoping that complacency or tardiness will not prevent whatever response needs to be given, fulfilling whatever responsibility we have.

Which are the biggest challenges to our national security?

Internal cohesion will be the most important.

How do we prevent the kind of incidents you just now said. Whether it is Gujarat or... Small incidents take on a much bigger shape. The ability of the system to manage this. I refuse to believe that 1984 or 2002... They are not deliberate pogroms. Works out in different ways. There is no control at that time, there is a lot of anger. Situations of this kind. How do you manage such situations?

I would say maintaining internal cohesion is one of the most important issues. I think our external threats are very limited. When people talk in terms of nuclear deterrent etc it's necessary, but the first one would really be internal cohesion.

The second one is what I would call the challenges of rising expectations that lead to a whole lot of issues that we are not able to manage.

The third one is the issue of governance.

What are the issues that we can't manage?

Rising expectations. Everyone wants more of the cake.

Part II: 'Certainly we are no supplicants of the US'

I am just taking a small issue: The Supreme Court has struck down the minority status (of educational institutions). It can snowball into a major issue. Because people will see it as a striking down of educational opportunity. This is a very small area, higher education. But this is true of so many other matters.

When we talk sitting here, it is simple, but when you go down you can see how people are so much more aware of what is what. There is no degree of passivity today.

Especially in a city like Mumbai.

Not only Mumbai, but if you go down to the villages in Tamil Nad or Kerala [Images] -- I am not very familiar with the Hindi heartland -- the concern is that I am not getting what I am supposed to.

When farmers commit suicide -- it is not as if this is the first time that things have been so bad. But people see that others are doing so much better than us and we are not getting our share. You are saying we say we are prospering, we have 8 per cent growth, I am not getting that share.

Part III: 'We're not going to sign the NPT'

Part IV: 'We'll decide how many bombs we want'

The reason why the bulk of forward castes in India decided to migrate to the United States -- the best thing that they did I suppose, since they helped us in the long run -- is based on this. We must have an outlet. Can you provide the outlet? I think that is a fundamental issue.

Then various movements -- Left wing extremism, for instance. The peripheral areas. How are you going to integrate the Northeast and others into the mainstream of India? These are socio-economic, socio-philosophical issues, there are so many issues.

Are the Nagas, for instance, an integral part of India? If you speak to Muivah or the Meteis or the Bodos, everybody is talking in terms of identities and separate homelands.

Finally, the biggest thing is what is the strength of the Centre. Everyone talks of more federalism, but the Centre is important. You cannot have a weak Centre.

You are talking to China on border issues. Can you give us some idea about where we are moving forward to.

We have guiding principles and political parameters, which I think is a great step forward. It would not have been possible but for China being willing. Now we have to start not delienating on the map, but we have to take the principles to specifics.

Swapping of areas?

No. Is it necessary? Is it possible? Which areas and where do you do? It's part of a package. It's not taking an individual piece. What do we demarcate and what do we take, is it in territory, is it in concept, is it in principle. We have to work with.

Will India ever agree to give some part of Arunchal Pradesh, because China is very clear about this?

We will see. That is the challenge as well.

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