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'Pakistan has allowed terror to grow'

March 05, 2009 22:50 IST

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram spoke to Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor in Chief, CNN IBN on the fallout of  the Lahore attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team..

You expressed shock after the incident in Pakistan of the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers, but are you surprised given that there were a series of terrorist attacks in Pakistan in the recent weeks?

I am shocked of course but not surprised because if you give room for terror and terrorist outfits, it is like riding a tiger that one day or the other is bound to hit you when you least expect it.

Interestingly, the Punjab governor, in his first reaction in Pakistan, said that the group responsible for 26/11 is responsible for the attack in Lahore. How do you see that, Pakistan attempting to equate 26/11 attack in Mumbai with that in Lahore?

It is not the equation which is important. What is more significant is the implicit admission that in Pakistan territory,
Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Pakistani handlers, controllers were behind the Mumbai attack and also behind the attack on the cricketers, which means Pakistan has not done enough to dismantle the terror  infrastructure nor has it done enough to apprehend the handlers and controllers. That is worrying.

Are you surprised that in this attack  not a single of the attackers  have so far not been apprehended. Does that worry you?

It is too early to apprehend the attackers but it is worrying that Pakistan after prevaricating for several weeks and after
finally admitting to Mumbai 26/11, is still in a position where it is forced to say that the same masterminds are operating on Pakistani soil. That is a very grave admission.

If Pakistan is to turnaround tomorrow and say that they are victims of terror - and this incident, they claim, proves that they are victims of terror - how will you respond?

They are not victims of terror. They have allowed terror to grow in their country. They have not been implacably opposed to terror. They continue to give sanctuary to terrorists and other criminals. And therefore, from time to time, terrorist incidents take place in Pakistan.

Is this a clear sign in a sense that Pakistan has become a haven for terrorists and the Pakistani government is not able to do enough to curb terrorists?

That is an obvious inference.

Isn't that the real problem. At the moment you are confronted with a neighbour who is unable to deal with terror, and a government that is not in control over the situation in the country?.

No, I can't use such words for another government. All I can say is that it appears as though they are unable or unwilling to take action against the masterminds of terror.

Where does this incident leave the 26/11 investigations? Do you fear that this incident could be used by Pakistan as some kind of a diversionary tactic? Already some Pakistani politicians are blaming India for the terror attack, so are you fearing that they will move away from the 26/11 investigation using this incident?

We won't let them move away. We will not take our eyes off the ball. We are continuing to put pressure on them through our coercive diplomacy that they should dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. And therefore, we will pursue it to its logical conclusion until they apprehend everyone, file chargesheets and prosecute them in their country or hand them over to us for prosecution. We are not going to take our eyes off the ball.

So there is no question of Pakistan trying to use what has happened in Lahore as a diversionary tactic? Already some Pakistani politicians have called the Lahore attack a RAW operation.

I don't attach much to what the politicians are trying to do in passing the buck to India. India is implacably opposed to terror. We have never given any quarter to terror. Yes terrorist incidents have taken place in India due to lapses or due to things being beyond our control but we have never given any quarter to terror. On the contrary Pakistan harbours terrorists and terrorist outfits and criminals.

The other big question is the IPL which is taking place next month at a time when elections will also take place. Would you suggest  to have IPL matches after the elections?

I have not reached any such decision. I have asked the Home Secretary to get in touch with the IPL organisers. The dates of the elections have been announced and the dates are un-alterable, so I have asked them to see if the IPL dates can be re-scheduled. But let me assure that cricket in India will be safe. All that I am asking is if the dates can be re-scheduled because I don't want the paramilitary forces to be stretched too much.

So when you say adjusted, you hope that perhaps a review should be done. You are asking for a review of the IPL calendar?

I guess the IPL has already indicated that it will review the matter.

But cricketers are soft target all over the world. So does that worry you that such a big tournament is being held in the country with international players at a time when your paramilitary forces are busy with other commitments?

The bulk of the election should be over for me to release the para-military forces, thats why it would be best to hold the
tournament a little later.

The flip side would be that not to have the IPL would mean succumbing to terror?

As I said, cricket in India will be safe. We are not talking of  cancelling cricket or the IPL.

There is also a World Cup coming in 2011 which we co-host with Pakistan. Do you think it is possible for us to have it in the subcontinent in the existing atmosphere?

2011 is two years away. Let's not think about it right now. There is a possibility that things will change by 2011. It would be pre-mature to take any view about 2011 now.

But don't you think that in the present atmosphere where terror threats are so obvious, to have a normal relationship with Pakistan, be it cricketing tours or people to people contacts with Islamabad is going to get increasingly difficult?

In the immediate effect, yes, it is unlikely that any country will send its sporting team to Pakistan. But I don't think we
should come to any definitive conclusions. Three to six months down the line things can improve and I hope they will improve. I wish Pakistan will take steps to make the situation more relaxed. In the next one week or perhaps one month, yes, it is not possible to send a sporting team to Pakistan.

The Opposition, particularly Arun Jaitley said that the Taliban is just five hours away from the national Capital because they are controlling larger part of Pakistan. But the UPA government seems to be unaware of the magnitude of the threat. So how concerned are you of the so called creeping  Talibanisation of  Pakistan?

I have already said that the Taliban hold over the Swat valley has already made whole of South Asia vulnerable. And our response to that is eternal vigilance. That's the price of liberty and security. Arun of course is given to exaggeration and embellishing a story, it is a good copy story for media but I disagree that we are unaware of the gravity of situation.

Are you also worried about the changing nature of the terror threat. I mean this is random terror, people coming out on the streets and shooting?

All terror attacks are random. The place and time are chosen by the attacker.

The parallel in that sense does between Mumbai and Lahore, similar types of  street terror, where the groups of handlers are based in Pakistan and none of them are being acted against?

I can't say where they are based. All I know is that the Mumbai attackers were controlled by Pakistanis. I don't know who the controllers of this group are. But all the evidence we have of the past terrorists attack leads to the conclusion that these terrorist attacks are master minded and controlled by handlers who are Pakistanis.

Pakistan, for its part, wants us to respond to the questions they have raised about the 26/11 dossier. Are we going to respond to those?

I think you are equating our dossier with their questions. Our dossier is an irrefutable document. Many of their questions have answers in the chargesheet filed in Mumbai. Anyway I will prepare a set of answers to their questions and give it to the Ministry of External Affairs who will then decide how to take it forward. Please do not equate our dossier with their questions. If Pakistan wants more information, if they genuinely seek information to advance its investigation, I am willing to provide that information within the limits of our law but equally as I said we may want information from the Pakistan in order to fill the gaps in our chargesheet for I think, this is a ongoing process, I am committed to the process to bring Kasab and other accused to trial and I want the same commitment from Pakistan.

One international observer has called Pakistan 'appease-es-sthan'. The government in Pakistan is looking to appease the Taliban. In fact there is a feeling that even the International community including the Obama administration is trying to make a differentiation between the good Taliban and the bad Taliban. Does that worry you?

 Not to my knowledge, although I have read and heard is that the Obama administration is very concerned about what is happened to the Swat valley and they have taken up the matter with the Pakistan. It's Pakistan which should worry about what happened as that makes Pakistan extremely vulnerable and when Pakistan becomes vulnerable then whole of south Asia becomes more vulnerable.

Is there any one concrete step that you would like to see that will convince you Mr Home Minister that Pakistan is genuinely acting or genuinely changing post 26/11?

Well, Pakistan can hand over some people to us who have taken sanctuary in Pakistan for crimes committed in the past. If  Pakistan is serious about fighting terror and joining this battle against terror which many countries have joined. Pakistan can hand over people who we have put down in the list given to the country. They can be handed over to
us for being tried in India.

But they havent done it all these years?

Which is why I said they have to act on their words this time.

What about the role of  the FBI?Are you seeing a collaborative effort to ensure that Pakistan follows and does what the international community expects it to do?

That is a natural development and I will tell you why. Today, a terrorist attack has international footprints, the Mumbai attack has footprints in at least six countries including the US and now - I do not wish another attack on any other country but - if there is a terrorist attack in any other country you will find that its footprints are in more than one country. Therefore the cooperation between the FBI and the Indian investigation agencies is a good example of international cooperation. We will look forward to an extent of same cooperation to the UK, France and Germany as the occasion arises. But the FBI help is invaluable and the FBI chief told me today that access to the Indian crime scene and access to the Indian witnesses has given them valuable insights and given them vital clues to other terrorists.

And has he given you any assurance they will continue to keep the pressure or the heat on Pakistan to ensure those responsible for 26/11 are dealt with?

I asked him, have you got the same cooperation from Pakistan? He said in his reply, 'not yet'. But he is going to Pakistan. He will ask the Pakistan government to extend the same cooperation that India gave. He wishes to interrogate a few people over there and visit a few places over there and examine some evidence there.

I do not know whether you are a cricket fan or not but today was the day where anyone who is connected with sports and humanity is in a state of shock because innocent people have been targeted yet again and in this case, the Sri Lankans.  One day it can be Sri Lankan cricket team and another day some defenseless people in Mumbai. Is the scale of   the problem we face now finally being realised?

Yes. What the terrorists are aiming at now is high profile incidents which grab international eyeballs, like the attack on the Taj, the Oberoi and the attack on the Sri Lankan Cricket team. This immediately tracks worldwide attention. This is a new dimension to the kind of terrorist incidents that we are likely to witness where it is not about simply spreading random terror but attacking some very visible targets so as to get the attention of the international community.

So I must ask you , do you now believe that the security for the Indian cricket team must be stepped up? They are also touring New Zealand, and I know it's a country far away from the epicenter of terror, but are you planning to step up protection?

I think New Zealand and Pakistan have different situations and New Zealand is a responsible country and if they ask for any help we will certainly help. And New Zealand will provide security to our team.

But your immediate challenge is to ensure that Pakistan will follow international laws and obligations post 26/11.

Well they have taken a half step in admitting to the role of  Pakistanis in the Mumbai attack. They now have to take all the next steps and I am still waiting for that.