Interview given by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna to CNN-IBN's Dy. Foreign Editor Suhasini Haidar on February 17th,2010.
CNN-IBN: The talks are coming after 14 months of suspension of the dialogue and also coming immediately after Pune blast. What can you really expect from these talks?
SM Krishna: The talks are slated at the level of foreign secretary in order to carry forward the core issues as far as India is concerned about terror and terror driven activities emanating from Pakistan. Hence we thought that it is necessary to engage Pakistan in that very critical area of terror. Hence we offered that the talks could take place at the level of foreign secretaries.
CNN-IBN: When you say talks, is it only about terror or other issues will also be discussed?
SM Krishna: Well this is a dialogue between two foreign secretaries, we do not know what issues Pak foreign secretary is likely to raise. But as far as India is concerned the brief to the foreign secretary is the that the terror will be the center point , the focal point of our approach in this talks.
CNN-IBN: So terror will be the focus of India’s position during talks but many including the opposition has suggested the talks terror and can't go together. Do you think we can talk about terror with Pakistan?
SM Krishna: Well if there is a better suggestion in terms of alternatives, government of India is willing to consider those alternatives. If the opposition in their wisdom emanating out of experience of being in the government, if they are willing to offer any suggestions which are constructive and which could be a substitute of talks then government is not unwilling to address.
CNN-IBN: You're saying the govt has run out of alternatives. Mr krishna. would you say instead of suspending dialogue for 14 months ago after the Mumbai attacks, you could have restarted the talks earlier?
SM Krishna: Well let me very clear that the composite dialogue were kept suspended. Let not the nation be under the mistaken inference that the composite dialogue is being renewed. Not at all. Composite dialogue has been suspended for a very good reason from Indian point of view and the issues which we raised in the composite dialogue and the aftermath of Mumbai attack they remain to be addressed by Pakistan with a degree of seriousness. But the present talks after 14 months, we waited for 14 months, we provided them dossiers so that it would help Pakistan to carry on further investigation in the Pakistan itself. Because the crime was committed, conspired, hatched from the soil of Pakistan . It is executed by Pakistanis as admitted . So we thought that it is necessary that after 14 months that we should find out what Pakistan had done to address our major grievances that is terror emanating from the Pakistani soil and then terror infrastructure which has remained in Pakistan and that has been continuous threat to India’s security, peace and stability of this region.
CNN-IBN: You said it’s time to see what Pakistan has done. Do you think in last year Pakistan has made any step forward to satisfy India?
SM Krishna: Well they have taken a few steps. They have arrested few persons and they are being tried by court in Pakistan but India feels that isn't enough. I think they will have to do more on this front.
CNN-IBN: What specifically would you like to see?
SM Krishna: Well, we would like to go into how the attack was planned, who planned it, who conspired it. I think they should go at the very roots of this attack. Right now what they have done is arrested few individuals who had something to do with this attack on Mumbai and then bring them to trial. Well that isn't honestly enough.
CNN-IBN: One day after the government announced foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan, blast in Pune killed 10 people. Initial investigation seem to suggest some links with group in Pakistan, one group has already claimed credit from Waziristan and one from PoK. What kind of impact will blast and all that followed have on talks.
SM Krishna: Well, let’s not forget whole neighborhood around Afghanistan & Pakistan is surrounded by terror, and these terrorists have spread all over and let us also be conscious of the fact that these sinner elements both in India to a very large extent and in Pakistan may be to a lesser extent . They want normalisation of relationship between the two countries. They want cordial relationship .But the fringe elements who do not want cordiality between the two nations and they are basically the terrorists. They can be Taliban, Laskar-e-Toeba and various other terror outfits which are operating from Pakistan. They do not want these talks to continue.
CNN-IBN: Pakistan PM Mr Gilani has issued a statement yesterday condoling the dead in Pune and also suggesting that Pakistan is willing to help India in intelligence and cooperation of any kind. Is that an offer you will proceed with?
SM Krishna: Well I think we have been cooperating Pakistan whenever situation demands. When we gave the dossier, that's what our intelligence agencies very laboriously have collected and that's what we have provided to Pakistani government and what has Pakistan government done about those dossiers that question remains. So as far as prime minister Gilani's mention of sharing intelligence we understand that whatever dossier that we have provided to them is basically coming out of what we have gathered through our own intelligence sources and that we have provided to Pakistan government.
CNN-IBN: To come back to the offer of foreign secretary level talks many have asked the question why the turnaround. In January the Indian government issued a very stern statement over the ipl to Pakistan to introspect the reasons on why the talks could not go on. Home Minister at one point said Pakistan is turning a blind eye to terrorists. Why did the Indian government feel after two weeks that it is the time to go ahead.
SM Krishna: Well the situation doesn't remain static. It’s a dynamic situation where things do happen. So it’s about time. I think India engages Pakistan in this very critical and vital sector of terror and terror related activities and that is the reason why we offer to hold talks at foreign secretary level.
CNN-IBN: You said nothing is static but what changed. When you were in London during Afghanistan conference you didn't have bilateral talks with your counterpart Mr. Qureshi and yet couple of weeks later we understand that foreign secretaries talk about meeting.
SM Krishna: Well somewhere the beginning has to be made. We are neighbours and we will continue to be neighbours. So we will have to in some way keep Pakistan engaged. Yes immediately after the Mumbai attack the nation was waked up, the people were agitated, and the government through its democratic credentials it had to go along with the mood of the people. Now after 14 month we are not condoning Pakistan and we still hold Pakistan responsible. We still hold that Pakistan did not take effective steps to prevent such attacks frequently been carried over against India. Having said so, but there is also the other side. Life has to go on. We are neighbours. There are other issues so other issues cannot be brushed aside. So even though India concentrate its focus on terror and terror based activities, the terror infrastructures which are not dismantled in Pakistan
CNN-IBN: Not just that, we still see Jehadi leaders like Hafiz Saeed, the man India believes is a mastermind of the Mumbai attack- giving public rallies against India, speaking freely- What kind of trust can India put in talks with Pakistan when it does nothing to stop them?
SM Krishna: It's the way the Pakistan functions. The government perhaps is not capable of restraining these jehadis from continuining with their vituperative statements against india, showing their hostility against India. But I just want to say, that we believe people like them are the fringe elements in Pakistan- the larger community as I said wants to see a normalisation of relations, and it is that constituency that India is addressing itself to in these talks.
CNN-IBN: Mr. Qureshi has suggested in a public meeting that India bowed to international pressure as well. Does International pressure play a part in India’s decision to hold talks?
SM Krishna: Well India is a mighty country with a billion people. And well many powers has tried to pressurise India but you know that history has recorded that India doesn’t succumb to pressure. So this is a decision which has been taken cautiously at the highest level of the government and we are going into these talks with our eyes wide open, with our ears wide open.
CNN-IBN: You said earlier about the democratic process in India. During Sharm el-Sheikh what we saw is that prime ministers of both countries were able to talk and hammer out a joint statement. That wasn't a statement that worked out very well in India. This time around, did the govt try to at least assess the public sentiments to build a broad based case?
SM Krishna: Well I think as I said earlier the people of this country by and large want good relation with Pakistan. They want basically good relationship with our neighbours. Because it is in the larger interest of the neighborhood so that we can concentrate on our domestic developmental agenda. If we want to concentrate on our domestic developmental agenda then we need to have atmosphere free of suspicion, mistrust and that's what we are trying to create and the first steps is talks on foreign secretary levels. We are not going to talks on levels of minister or at the level of little higher than that. Let see what comes out of these talks.
CNN-IBN: You are saying this is the first step, are we expecting to see the meetings between the leaders?
SM Krishna: Well let us wait for the outcome, let us see.
CNN-IBN: Around the 25th when Pakistan’s foreign secretary will come to India what is the minimum that India is expecting?
SM Krishna: Well I think that depends up on how the dialogue proceeds. We would like that a terror free atmosphere to prevail in this region and can Pakistan play game with us on this. I think that is the basic question and we will certainly expect a positive response from Pakistan.
CNN-IBN: That is the maximum position what is the minimum does one expect?
SM Krishna: Well when a dialogue takes place I think it is unrealistic to expect that what you expect or what do they expect. Let the talks begin, let them start talking and then we will see.