December 20, 2001, Chandigarh, India
Options open, says PM
New Delhi, December 19
Intervening in the discussion on the terrorist attack on Parliament in both Houses, the Prime Minister while decrying the international community for asking India to show restraint, said: “There cannot be different yardsticks in the fight against terrorism”. But he assured the two Houses that India will keep all its options open and will take a decision after thorough consideration.
Intervening in the Lok Sabha the Prime Minister rejected Pakistan’s demand for a joint probe into last week’s attack and voiced confidence that all parties would rise above political considerations in fighting terrorism.
“We have exercised much restraint. We are exploring diplomatic avenues. But other options are also open. Whatever we decide will be well thought out and after a comprehensive examination of all issues,” he said intervening in a special debate on Thursday’s terrorist attack on Parliament.
In an apparent disapproval of the USA and other countries counselling restraint on India’s part, Vajpayee said without naming any country that “those counselling us restraint should also give the same advice to our neighbour”.
The Prime Minister said there could be no two yardsticks in the campaign against terrorism and made it clear that New Delhi would fight the evil on its own strength.
In his 30-minute intervention, Mr Vajpayee said the bullet marks in Parliament House and bodies of five Pakistani terrorists were “proof enough” of the conspiracy to strike at the heart of India’s democracy.
New Delhi, he said, had conveyed to Islamabad that the strike was part of a “deliberate and well-planned conspiracy” on the part of Pakistan-based terrorist outfits and has demanded proper action against them.
Stating that nobody wanted war or was trying to create a war psychosis, the Prime Minister said: “Such feelings should not be generated. Decisions on war or peace are not not taken in a fit of anger.
“We have options and we will consider all pros and cons and weigh them before coming to a firm decision. Whatever steps are taken, they will be in the supreme national interest. Any such decision cannot be that of a single political party but it will that ofthe entire country.”
Accusing Islamabad of playing a “dangerous game”, Mr Vajpayee said “We are not not relying on diplomacy alone... We hope international opinion will be in our favour. India will face the challenge posed by terrorism alone”.
Stating that India was exercising restraint, Mr Vajpayee said this “should not be construed as a sign of weakness. Ours is a thriving democracy and we should give due respect to peoples’ sentiments.”
Pointing out that there were elements active in Pakistan which wanted India to be dismembered, Mr Vajpayee said India had accepted the “unfortunate” partition but Pakistan was yet to reconcile to it.
Responding to members’ concerns regarding security in Parliament House, he said an indepth review was underway and adequate security measures would be undertaken and firmly implemented.
He asked parties not to take political mileage out of the situation and give any colour keeping in view the elections.
Mr Vajpayee said “till now, terrorism was mostly confined to Jammu and Kashmir but now it has knocked at the doors of Parliament challenging the sovereignty and security of the country.”
He said Parliament was chosen by the terrorists deliberately as it was the heart and guardian of Indian democracy.
In the Rajya Sabha Mr Vajpayee said terrorism had to be seen in totality. It is not enough if terrorism was wiped out only in Afghanistan. It had to be rooted out all over the world for which the entire international community should cooperate, he added.
Soon after the December 13 attack, US President George Bush contacted him telephonically to say that the entire international community, including Pakistan, had criticised the attack which, the US President said, was a “good sign”, Mr Vajpayee said in his 20-minute intervention.
Mr Vajpayee said he told Bush in clear terms that the terrorists who attacked Parliament had links with Islamabad and were abetted by Pakistan.
Expressing happiness that the entire polity in the country was united in this hour of ‘’challenge’’, Vajpayee said the very fact that Congress President Sonia Gandhi contacted him immediately after the attack to enquire about his well-being showed democracy in the country was strong.
“When the Leader of the Opposition is worried about the well-being of the Prime Minister, what was the worry for Indian democracy. It is not in peril,” Mr Vajpayee said adding even today the nation’s interest was uppermost in the minds of political parties.
To members’ plea for restraint in dealing with the challenging issue, he said though these sentiments should be respected “we should also keep the sentiments of the people in mind”.
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