Tharoor speaks on Pak's N-arms


The southern Man
Senior Member
Jul 15, 2009
Country flag
Devil's Advocate: Tharoor speaks on Pak's N-arms

Have President Obama's Af-Pak plans cast a shadow over Indo-US relations and perhaps introduced an element of tension between India and Pakistan? That is the key issue Karan Thapar discussed in this week's Devil's Advocate with the Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor.

Karan Thapar: Minister, let's start with President Obama's Af-Pak strategy just announced last week. He has promised to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan but he hasn't said a single word about terrorist organisations that target India like LeT and Jaish. Are you disappointed?

Shashi Tharoor: Not at all because basically the problems that affect India directly are our business not anybody else's. President Obama has a direct stake in what's going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan.He has troops on the ground in Afghanistan as indeed military action and logistical support through Pakistan. Af-Pak is Afghanistan and Pakistan and it doesn't involve India. So while we are close observers, it doesn't involve whatsoever to be concerned about our omission from the process.

Karan Thapar: Let me pursue the point like this. President Obama went on to say, and I am quoting him, "We cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear." That applies word-for-word for the presence of LeT and Jaish in Pakistan and yet they are not part of his reckoning.

Shashi Tharoor: Well look. This was a speech about a very specific subject. Here is a President addressing his own people about a commitment made by his government to send his country's nationals as troops to a foreign land. That's what that's all about. Why do we look at it so completely from an Indian perspective?

Karan Thapar: Because it's a commitment to eradicate terrorism and it appears that the only terrorism he is interested in is the one inflicted upon his soldiers and his country and not the terrorism that India suffers.After all, he has spoken in his speech about the bombing of London, Amman and Bali but he consciously and deliberately left out 26/11. Doesn't it suggest that he views 26/11 in a different light?

Shashi Tharoor: No, look, on that particular point I think the distinction that the Americans have made between what they would call the al-Qaeda inspired attacks and what they would call the more India specific attack of 26/11.Now, we don't accept that distinction. For us there is no significant difference between somebody who wants to kill people in Bali and somebody who wants to kill people in Mumbai.

Karan Thapar: Absolutely.

Shashi Tharoor: But the point is that we are not the US and we don't have to agree with everything they say and the way they do it, but this particular speech had nothing to do with us. The only thing is that when pressure is eased on the al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it adds to the pressure on us and therefore it is a good thing for us that that aspect of the problem is dealt with and those people are left on the backfoot.

Karan Thapar: I let you answer that fully without interrupting, but I am going to bring you back to the point I made, and that is that he has undertaken a promise that they will not tolerate a safe haven for terrorists - that is exactly what Pakistan is when it comes to the LeT and Jaish.He says: "Terrorists whose intentions are clear will be removed." That again applies to LeT and Jaish and yet LeT and Jaish don't feature. They are paramount.

Shashi Tharoor: This is not a speech about LeT and Jaish. This is a speech about Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Karan Thapar: Precisely. LeT and Jaish are centered in Pakistan, they are probably supported by Pakistan.

Shashi Tharoor: The Afghan-Pak border is what they are talking about. The people who are bothering us are not on the Afghan-Pak border necessarily. Some of them are, some of them aren't.
My point is quite simply this: we do have strong cooperation with the US which is of a very different nature because the US doesn't have any troops or security forces engaged in any operation against our immediate enemies, but we do have cooperation, we have exchange of information. When the Prime Minister was in Washington, his (President Obama's) staff initialed a counter-terrorism initiative.

Karan Thapar: Let me come back to the fight against terror. President Obama in that speech repeatedly called Pakistan a partner, he talked about a partnership with Pakistan and yet in Indian eyes Pakistan is either a state that sponsors terror or at least a sympathiser of terror.

Can you have a meaningful partnership fighting terror with a country that uses terror as an instrument of state policy?

Shashi Tharoor: Now, you and I may have a different view of this from the US, but you know that in my old UN Peacekeeping days, I was taught by an old American - a very grizzled American general - the adage that amateurs discuss strategy, rank amateurs discuss tactics and true professionals focus on logistics.And there is no effective action against terrorists on the Afghan-Pakistan border without being conscious of the logistics of Pakistan, of using Pakistani territory to supply American forces, of NATO going through Pakistani soil. Logistics are an extremely important consideration there.

Karan Thapar: You are blinding me with glib speech. Logistics only come in the way once you have got the target and the principles correct. What I am pointing out to you is that the American President's view of Pakistan is blinkered.He is only looking at the terror that is sourced from Pakistan that affects him. The terror from Pakistan that affects us is consciously, deliberately ignored.

Shashi Tharoor: That's not accurate. The US is looking at the terror that affects us. They are looking at it off camera. They are not looking at it in a speech that the US President makes to his people about his troops. There are no American people involved in our fight. This is our problem. Let's deal with it ourselves.

Karan Thapar: You say they are looking at it off camera. Let me then come to a critical question – how confident are you that because Af-Pak depends on support from Pakistan that President Obama won't become sympathetic to the Pakistani view that the terror that India faces from the Pakistani soil is linked to Kashmir.We refute it, Pakistan insists on that connection and how confident are you that Obama won't, under pressure from Pakistan, begin to take that view?

Shashi Tharoor: Because we have been dealing with the new US administration now for 11 months, we have had extremely good dialogue on various levels from Prime Minister on down and every indication is that that is not the way the US thinks about our problems.

Karan Thapar: Is every indication that?

Shashi Tharoor: Absolutely.

Karan Thapar: In the letter that President Obama sent President Zardari that was widely reported by ‘The Washington Post’ and ‘The New York Times’, he has once again gone back to talking about efforts to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan.That is exactly what Pakistan is pressing for, it's precisely what you don't want and this is a clear sign that he is veering towards their side of the argument.

Shashi Tharoor: But this is exactly what we do want. We want to reduce tensions with Pakistan.

Karan Thapar: But not with American help.

Shashi Tharoor: No not with American help.

Karan Thapar: But he is offering American help.

Shashi Tharoor: Well I am sorry but there have been many, many statements from American officials saying this is problem that has to be solved between India and Pakistan.

Karan Thapar: So that means the American President says different things to Indians and different things to Pakistanis. That's even worse. You can't even rely on him them.

Shashi Tharoor: We are not relying on anybody else to solve our problems, let's get this straight from the very beginning. India stands on its own two feet and we will deal with our own problems.But having said that, we see the US as a positive and supportive element on this and as far as the Af-Pak policy is concerned, we applaud every effort to maintain pressure that rollback the advances made by militants and terrorists in that region.

Karan Thapar: Let's hope that you are right. The safety and security of perhaps a billion Indians depends upon the certainty with which you speak.

Karan Thapar: Minister, let's come to another sense in which Af-Pak makes India more vulnerable. President Obama has committed his country to stepping up American military supplies and equipment to Pakistan.You know that those supplies are frequently used against India: former Pakistan president Musharraf has admitted and as a candidate Obama acknowledged it. With stepped up supplies to Pakistan, are you worried once again that they can be used against India?

Shashi Tharoor: We have shared our concerns with the US at various levels- with the administration, with the Congress. Our point is very simple. By all means support Pakistan in this battle but keep an eye on what you give and how it's used. Show them that it's not just a blank cheque which can then be returned and used against on us.

Karan Thapar: What response did you get from them?

Shashi Tharoor: Very positive.

Karan Thapar: When you say very positive-

Shashi Tharoor: That's why this conditional language written into the law as well, because Congressmen and Senators agreed with our concerns. The administration has said that they are going to very vigilant about how their assistance is used.

Karan Thapar: Are you saying that the conditional language written into the Kerry-Lugar bill was done at the behest or in the insistence of India to gave India the security that this won't be used against India.

Shashi Tharoor: I would never suggest that any independent lawmaker in a sovereign, free country will act at our behest. All that I am saying is that we made people aware of our concerns and those concerns appeared to have been taken into account. Now having said that I do want to make another very important point.Of the $11 billion that the US gave after 9/11 to Pakistan for military assistance a recent report in the public press--I'm not talking of anything classified--actually says $687 million were actually spent on the weaponry that was supposed to be used for and lots of diversion have occurred.I want you to understand that not every figure we see necessarily points into a barrel point at India. Final point--

Karan Thapar: Absolutely, you're saying misuse of funds happens in Pakistan. In a sense that we are safe from equipment being used against us; thank God for that misuse.

Shashi Tharoor: Well, to some degree. But the final and the most important point of them all is that whatever equipment Pakistan has--whether they get it this way or they get it in some other way, whether they buy it from off the shelf in the market, or they get it because of the Afghanistan excuse--the bottom line is that Indian defence forces are prepared. We go right back to the 1965 war when there was all worry about the Patton tanks and jets.I am saying to you let's not worry too much. Pakistan, as an army, can buy equipment anywhere, (but) if it comes to conflict we are prepared.

Karan Thapar: When it comes to Indian defence forces, clearly Generals can't speak in public but retired army chiefs have expressed their concern.I am talking about of General (V P) Malik, the victor of Kargil war, who told this very programme that he is concerned by the way in which Pakistan has developed and made the Harpoon missile nuclear capable. He is concerned about the reports that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal may be in fact larger than ours.He is particularly concerned--even though it may be $ 600 million worth--of the way in which Pakistani equipment is frequently used against us even though it's no so intended by the Americans, who gave it. So those concerns are there, it's just that the Generals can't express and make it to the public.

Let me move to something that concerns everyone and clearly it concerns President Obama: the state of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. In his speech he seems to have suggested it that they could fall into terrorists' hand. So let me as Minister of State of Foreign affairs ask you bluntly: how safe do you believe are Pakistan's nuclear weapons?

Shashi Tharoor: We don't have first hand information on that. But certainly those who do and those who are very close to Pakistan are seem to be convinced, at least in terms of various private soundings, that there is nothing to worry about in that area. Obviously, we will never be complacent about these things but Pakistan, for all its limitations, does have a strong military establishment. As of now, in any case, they appeared to be in control of their own weapons.

Karan Thapar: Pakistan says their weapons are secured and that they are in complete control. Do you take at that face value?

Shashi Tharoor: At this stage, yes, we have no reason to doubt that yet.

Karan Thapar: Was this subject discussed between the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and American President Obama when he (Manmohan Singh) visited Washington recently?

Shashi Tharoor: I have no reason to believe so. It certainly was not part of debriefing that I received, so I don't know.

Karan Thapar: Does India have its own contingency plan of action, in case Pakistan's nuclear weapon seem to be in danger of falling into the wrong hands?

Shashi Tharoor: Look, we are not there yet. I am little anxious- not to get into unnecessary alarmism at this point. Pakistan has lot of difficulties but they are not about to fall apart yet as a state and they are not about to have their army surrendering control of its most prized military assets to irregulars.So at this stage this is not a concern. But obviously this is a further argument for why, as the Prime Minister has repeatedly said, a stable, peaceful Pakistan is in our interest too.

Karan Thapar: Are you sounding sanguine or are you in danger of sounding little complacent?

Shashi Tharoor: No, we are not complacent at all. What good it would do to worry the Indian public about a threat which at this point is purely theoretical.

Karan Thapar: Let me then come back to the key issue that this interview was about. I am going to quote this time to you a former American ambassador Robert Blackwill, who speaking to CII in Delhi said, that America has an enveloping preoccupation with Pakistan and he added that India is seen largely through the lens of deeply disturbing developments in Pakistan.The entire emphasis of Obama's Af-Pak strategy, the sense in which India and the threat India faces from Pakistan has been ignored proves that Blackwill is right.

Shashi Tharoor: I have a lot of respect for Ambassador Blackwill, but I don't believe India is being ignored. As far as I am concerned we have to really stop being self-obsessed, as we sometimes seems to be in our media, about every slight, real or imagined, by foreign leaders.The President's speech was addressed to the American people. It was about a very specific and narrow preoccupation and it was not about us. When he spoke about us, our Prime minister was there. Everything he said, we were happy to hear. The body language in those meetings, the joint statement, and the press conference there was absolutely nothing--

Karan Thapar: The point people ask is why can't the things that he says when the Prime Minister is there be also said in speeches which are after all to do with terrorism in South Asia and to do with Pakistan as a haven for terrorists because that is the country that is heaven for our terrorists as well. Why does he ignore one and not the other?

Shashi Tharoor: Well, you have to ask this to him or his speechwriters.

Karan Thapar: But it's disturbing.

Shashi Tharoor: But my point is there is no reason to question? Why are we criticising him for refusing to mix apple with oranges?

Karan Thapar: For the simple reason that they are in fact both oranges and they are not apple.

Shashi Tharoor: They both are fruits.

Karan Thapar: They are both oranges. Both of those are terrorists and he has just looked at to the American aspect.

Shashi Tharoor: There are no American troops, no NATO troops involved in India's fight against terrorism, let me put that very clearly. Therefore, it was not of a concern. They both are fruits but different fruits and as far we are concerned, he didn't mix them and that is final.

Karan Thapar: Let me then ask you how confident are you that as American dependence on Islamabad grows--and it's going to grow increase over the next two years as Af-Pak works itself out--that it won't affect India's relationship with Washington?

Shashi Tharoor: It's part of our job as a government, as skilled and experienced diplomats to maintain that relationship in a way it ensures that we always keeping the dialogue going and ensuring this affect you--

Karan Thapar: But now you will be doing that against the odds, against the grain rather than with the grain.

Shashi Tharoor: First of all I don't accept it. But if it is that we enjoy rising to accept challenges.

Karan Thapar: Alright, that's a challenge that you have taken it and I wish you good luck. A pleasure talking to you.

Shashi Tharoor: Thank you.

Devil's Advocate: Tharoor speaks on Pak's N-arms : Page 5


Respected Member
Senior Member
May 30, 2009
Country flag
This guy Thapar is just being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative.

Despite the fact that his role as the Devil's Advocate" requires a bit of that; it still smacks of a lack of substance, and his feeble retorts dont help his case.

One of the points that Shashi Tharoor made is really pertinent for way the Indian media covers news from the US - That Indians should not assume that every aspect of US policy speeches by senior US diplomats on South Asia is India centric, and in most cases, India should not even pay too much attention to it. It is for domestic consumption.

This tendency of Indian newspapers and media people to parse every single line of what any Senior US diplomat says about the South Asian Af/Pak region, into an analysis of what it means for India is simply getting old.

Latest Replies

Global Defence

New threads