Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has said the spreading influence of the Taliban and other fundamentalist organisations in Pakistan was worrisome because it could spill over to India. He was responding to questions on the turmoil in Pakistan and its implications for India in Karan Thapar’s programme ‘Devil’s Advocate’ broadcast by CNN-IBN on Sunday.
The following are excerpts from the interview. The earlier part was excerpted in Sunday’s issue.
Karan Thapar: Do you believe the recent developments… have made Pakistan a more stable country, or do you think a precarious equilibrium that lasted for seven months has been disturbed?
P. Chidambaram: Well, I can’t make a judgment on that, but we’re not happy with the turmoil... Turmoil across our border has a tendency to spill over in different ways... If they have reached a settlement and that settlement will provide greater stability to the civilian government I’ll be happy. But, for the time being I’d like to reserve judgment...
There are several components... The first is [Pakistan President] Asif Ali Zardari. He always says things that sound very reassuring to Indian ears. But do you believe he’s sincere or is this just rhetoric?
Well, I don’t have to make a judgment on his sincerity. I only need to know what he says and what he does. If there’s a wide gap between what they say and what they do then I have to keep my guard high. That’s all.
And in the case of Mr. Zardari, does that gap exist…?
It exists in the case of every Pakistani leader who has commented on the situation post the Mumbai attack.
A second aspect… is the role… played by [Army Chief] General Parvez Ashfaq Kayani. People in Pakistan say he played a sagacious role in ensuring that the confrontation was reduced and that a consensus was arrived at between the quarrelling political parties. Are you reassured by his presence and behaviour, or do you have a sense of doubt and concern?
Well, I don’t know him. All I know is what I hear. I’m told the Army is a centre of power. I’m told the Army has brokered some kind of peace between the Prime Minister and the President. Now, who wields real authority in Pakistan I can’t say, but if General Kayani is a moderating influence, if he has brokered peace between the President and the Prime Minister, well that’s a good piece of news. But I’ve no information to make a judgment on these matters.
The other element is the spreading influence of the Taliban and other fundamentalist organisations… How do you view the peace deals the Zardari government has done with the Taliban…?
Very bad for South Asia. It’s bad for Pakistan, it’s bad for the rest of South Asia. We cannot countenance a regime like the Taliban regime, that’s opposed to every notion of civilised democratic government that we accept, and we’re trying to build India on that foundation. But if the Taliban’s influence spreads in Pakistan then I’m sorry for the people of Pakistan. But it worries me because the Taliban’s influence is spreading and it could spill over into India.
Would it have security implications for us…?
See, the induction of any force into Pakistan does alter the security situation. Does it alter it for the better or for the worse, I can’t say. The point is, India is trying to help Afghanistan find its feet. We are helping them in many ways. We’ve a policy on Afghanistan which is quite explicit. We’ve made it clear. There’s a paragraph in the President’s speech. I don’t want to say anything beyond that.