In light of the recent spate of attacks by naxal groups, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday termed naxalism “the greatest internal security threat to our country” and said the government was taking adequate steps “to deal with the menace.”
Dr. Singh was speaking to journalists at a press conference held at the National Centre for the Performing Arts here.
Asked whether the Indian Air Force would undertake counter-offensive measures against naxal groups, he said: “We are not in favour of using India’s armed forces … We have other instruments — the police, the paramilitary forces — which are capable of tackling this menace.”
Defence Minister A.K. Antony has said there is no proposal to deploy the armed forces in anti-naxalite operations.
Reiterating Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s call to the Maoists to “abjure violence,” Dr. Singh said: “We are ready to talk with any group whether in Jammu and Kashmir or in naxal areas provided they shed the path of violence.” He also drew attention to the reasons behind the growth of naxalism.
“The growth of naxalism in central India obliges us to look at what causes this sense of alienation among certain sections of the community, especially the tribal community. It could be indicative of the deficiencies in the pace of development. We are looking at that aspect, but groups of individuals have no right to take law and order in their own hands. The designs of these groups are well-known and we will take effective measures to counter them. We will see positive developments,” Dr. Singh said.
He said there was no particular evidence or intelligence that naxal groups received funding from abroad. “Rumours are always afloat.” The Maoists and other such organisations are covered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), he said.
As for the turbulence in India’s immediate neighbourhood, Dr. Singh said: “We need a neighbourhood of peace and friendliness. The situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan is not what it should be. The role of terrorist groups is a matter of concern to all of us. We must take steps to curb the consequences [of their actions]. The government and the people of Pakistan must realise the great harm the patronisation of terrorist groups has done to South Asia. If we work together to deal with this menace a [larger] good can come out of it.”
Dr. Singh rubbished the statement of Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik that India was trying to spread terrorism. He called it “a false accusation.”
Responding to questions on the success of Indian diplomacy in the aftermath of 26/11, Dr. Singh said pressure from India and from other countries had borne some fruit.
“For the first time Pakistan agreed that terrorism had its origins in Pakistan. That the conspiracy leading to the Mumbai terror attacks was hatched in Pakistan. That the citizens of Pakistan were involved… There has been some progress. We would like this progress to be carried further,” he said.