Index

Prime Minister's speech at the Chief Minister's conference

July 07, 1999
New Delhi

This meeting has been called in order to discuss the situation arising out of the Pakistani aggression in Kargil. Also the internal security situation as a result of hostile operations by foreign agencies and mercenaries. The consensus within the country, on the need to defeat Pakistan's plans, is heartening. I am sure our discussions today will further strengthen the national resolve. I shall brief this meeting on the military and diplomatic situation first, and then would like to hear from the assembled Chief Ministers about the internal security situation in their States.

We have seen terrorist operations master-minded by Pakistan since the early 1980's. The initial target was Punjab and we all know the consequences of that. The people of Punjab stood up to the challenge unitedly and we were able to defeat the plans of the enemy. I pay tribute also to the police in Punjab which tackled the situation with grit and determination.

After Punjab, the target has been the State of Jammu & Kashmir. Starting from 1989, extremist groups such as the JKLF, Lashkar-e-Taiba or the Harkat-ul-Ansar have been infiltrating into the State from Pakistan and committing terrorist acts against innocent people. Our Armed Forces and the Para-military had succeeded in containing this challenge also by the mid-1990's. J&K had returned to normalcy, economic activity was picking up, tourism was flourishing. In desperation, Pakistan turned to actions such as the large-scale massacre of innocent civilians. About this, too, you are familiar.

Yet again, in desperation Pakistan raised the ante. This time in Kargil. But the current action in Kargil sector represents a qualitatively new move by Pakistan. This time, the numbers are higher, they intruded to hold territory rather than simply to infiltrate. This is also the first time that Pakistan is holding out a military challenge to try and alter the LOC. Pakistan clearly miscalculated, and we have made explicit that we shall not countenance any alteration of the LOC. We categorically reject any attempt to question the validity of LOC.

This new escalation represented a challenge to our national resolve since it called into question the sanctity of the Shimla Agreement. The Services Chiefs are present and you will be briefed in detail on the conduct of operations and the readiness of our Armed Forces. I am sure you will all join me in paying a tribute to the Armed Forces for their gallant performance.

The military threat of interdiction of the Srinagar-Leh highway has been eliminated. The capture of important mountain features such as Tololing Top and Tiger Hill demonstrate the bravery and skill of our soldiers. These were extremely difficult operations and I take this opportunity of saluting the brave men who gave their lives for the protection of our security. All too often, unfortunately, our gratitude is short-lived and the sacrifices are forgotten after the campaign. Instances have been reported where promises made in the past to the soldiers or their families have not been kept. I know that several States have announced that they will provide such schemes for the families of those soldiers who have died in this campaign. This is welcome. I appeal to all the Chief Ministers to ensure that there are no delays in implementing these schemes nor should they be allowed to be forgotten.

Our military operations will continue until the last of the intruders has been driven back. There will be no stopping or scaling back until this objective has been achieved. At the same time, we are willing to give diplomacy a chance if that will enable us to achieve our objectives. For this reason, we have had some contacts with Pakistan in recent weeks. The objective is one and only one. It is the complete and unconditional withdrawal of the intruders from our side of the Line of Control. There is no other objective and no other subject that we are discussing.

We have also been in close touch with the international community. This is not an internationalisation of the Kashmir question, since they all recognise that this is a bilateral matter to be settled between India and Pakistan. We have ourselves made it clear that there is no room for third-party involvement, however well-intentioned. Nevertheless, it was important for us to explain our position.

We have had success in this regard. Russia has shown understanding and has expressed support for the action that we are taking. The United States has clearly named Pakistan as the country responsible in the incursion. They have actively engaged Pakistan in trying to persuade that country to withdraw the intruders. In pursuit of this, the Commander-in-Chief of the Central Command of the USA, General Zinni visited Pakistan for talks with their military and civilian leaders. More recently, Mr. Nawaz Sharif has been to Washington. We are informed that Pakistan has agreed to withdraw. We will watch for results on the ground. In the meantime our operations shall continue unabated.

A little earlier, the G-8 countries had clearly recognised that the intrusion across the LoC was an irresponsible act and had called for the withdrawal of the intruders, all this points to the success of our diplomacy and the correctness of our decision to engage the outside world more actively.

However, I wish to stress that no outsider owes it to us to reverse the present incursion. We alone are responsible for safeguarding our security and protecting our interests. While we are grateful for the support and understanding of the international community, there will be no compromise on our military operations. We have therefore to continue to rely on our Armed Forces to deal with this and other challenges that are bound to come up. This obliges us to look to look to our defence preparedness in the future. In the 1980's, our defence spending was of the order of 3.5% of our GDP. This fell below 2.5% in the 1990's, which is among the lowest in the world. My Government raised the Defence Budget last year shortly after taking over. We must be realistic and recognise that our security requirements need to be met and that we are confronting an enemy who is resolute and unwilling to see reason. We have to be clear that if we will the end, we must also will the means. I believe the national consensus is changing in the light of our current experience and I hope we can tap the national mood in order to ensure that such situations do not recur in future.

Similarly, we need to guard against internal threats. Our foe is bent upon sowing terrorism and disaffection throughout the country. We are an open democratic society, and are determined to preserve our freedoms. However, the system does permit unscrupulous elements to exploit it, and to spread terror through killing innocent people. We must, therefore, increase our counter-terrorism capabilities and our vigilance. This is a long-term challenge and we have lived with it for close to two decades already. It is time to take resolute measures and to deal firmly with a situation which is threatening to escalate. I have been moved by the plight of the families of the innocent victims who have been massacred by cowardly night-attack or bombs that have been set off in various cities.

Our states must cooperate more closely in order to deal with this threat. This applies with special force to states that lie along the international border. Attempts are being made by the enemy and will continue to be made to aggravate the communal situation. We must be on our guard against this. While this requires efficient and impartial administration in the short-term, the long-term remedy is to bring to all sections of society the benefits of development without any discrimination. I look forward to hearing from the Chief Ministers their views and proposals for improving our internal security arrangements.

Some concern has been expressed in the country that the Government will accept mediation or internationalisation. I tell you categorically that this will not happen. If in our interaction with the international community we are told that Pakistan has violated the Line of Control, that it must withdraw the armed intruders from the Indian side of the LOC, that the sanctity of the LOC must be restored, that the Lahore process must be reinitiated, and we express our satisfaction with this objective reaction of the international community, it does not mean that we are seeking mediation or agreeing to internationalisation. All it means is that while our Armed Forces are doing everything to throw out the armed intruders, we are also engaged diplomatically to achieve the same purpose.

I will now request the Services Chiefs to brief this meeting on the current situation in the Kargil sector. After they have finished their briefings, they will take leave of you and we shall continue our discussions. In that I request the Hon'ble Chief Ministers to limit their intervention to not more than 10 minutes each.