July 10, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/Tarun Vijay

'The summit is not a tamasha'

Last week, Tarun Vijay's name was doing the rounds as the new entrant to the prime minister's office. But the editor of Panchjanya -- the RSS weekly -- says he is not in the running for the post of media advisor to the prime minister, and would rather go back to working for the tribals in Dadra and Nagar Haveli instead.

Known for his proximity to Union Home Minister L K Advani and Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi Tarun Vijay -- in many ways -- is the public face of the RSS.

In an interview to Ramesh Menon, he says India has taken the initiative by inviting Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, but it was now for Pakistan to take the road to peace.

Why did Prime Minister Vajpayee finally agree to invite General Musharraf?

I think it is the Hindu psyche at work.

When a section of Muslims wanted a separate Pakistan against the wishes of a majority of Indians and even a section of Muslims, they got it. They wanted a loan of Rs 52 crores. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel were against the loan. Patel told Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) that they would not repay it. But Mahatma Gandhi said India must give it as an elder brother.

After getting the money, they attacked India. They have kept attacking India since. In between there were so many rounds of talks. What happened? Nothing. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto betrayed us in Simla. He told Indira Gandhi to return their prisoners of war -- there were over 90,000 of them -- and he would solve the problem. But he did not.

In 1971, we could have solved the Kashmir problem as we had an edge. Later Rajiv Gandhi went to Pakistan to talk to Benazir Bhutto. Nothing happened. Vajpayee went to Lahore with the message of love and peace. And Pakistan gave us Kargil.

As you see, it is the typical Hindu psyche at work -- that after every setback, we will still work for peace. I hope Pakistan understands this.

It will be a great relief to the entire region if Pakistan-sponsored terrorism comes to an end. If General Musharraf decides, he can do it, as he is now the supreme leader.

In your opinion, what will the outcome of the Indo-Pak summit be?

We certainly have hopes for the summit. We hope it will pave way for future negotiations. However, we do not know how far General Musharraf will go to contain terrorism in the Valley and elsewhere.

When we are negotiating with Musharraf in Agra, it will be difficult to forget the martyrs of Kargil.
Right from Srinagar to Agartala and other states of the northeast, the government is on record saying that the acts of terrorism against the Indian State have been carried out by the ISI. If that is the case, we have to see how India can deal with Pakistan on this issue during the summit.

As the summit draws near, many find it difficult to forget Kargil.

We are trying to be friends with Pakistan.

At this moment, we cannot say we are friends. We cannot say General Musharraf is a great friend or that Pakistan is a great friend of India. When we are negotiating with Musharraf in Agra, it will be difficult to forget the martyrs of Kargil.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee chose to invite the person who refused to greet him at the Wagah border. This speaks volumes of the strength of the Indian State and democracy.

Only a person who is strongly embedded in his seat of power could have taken such a great risk. It is like walking on a double-edged sword.

When body bags were sent from Kargil to the villages of India, slogans of 'Amar Jawan' rent the air. At that time, Musharraf was the most hated man in India. Now, we are ready to welcome him with full honours. I think it is an unparalleled initiative in world history.

How has this thinking come about?

Violence never benefits anybody. It has not benefited Pakistan. Our vision is that if India and Pakistan can come together to fight poverty, unemployment, the pressures of the Western world, economic pressures of multinational companies and developed countries, then this area will become the number one area in the world.

We can do wonders together. But for that Pakistan will have to forget the hate against India. Pakistan looks at India as a Hindu kafir (infidel) state.

Why do they have such a perception?

There cannot be any reason for hatred against India. I have been to Pakistan and I found the common man would like to be friendly with India. Commoners, journalists, intellectuals -- all feel the same. They were telling me they realise that Pakistan can never get Kashmir from India. It is something that is only there in the heads of the leaders in Islamabad. People want peace, but leaders infuse hatred.

There is a boundary. But one history, one race. We had the same ancestors. We share a common geographical area. We like their songs, they like our films. We speak the same language. There is so much to share. So the people to people contact should be strengthened.

The summit must be watched with utmost care. It is not a tamasha (spectacle). The summit should not be presented in a celebratory mood. There is nothing to celebrate as of now. Not yet. The only fact is that we are finally meeting. The celebration has to wait till the results of the summit come.

We wish well to Pakistan, but it should wish India well too.

What do you think is Pakistani's game plan?

Vajpayee chose to invite the person who refused to greet him at the Wagah border. This speaks volumes of the strength of the Indian State and democracy.
All these years, all Pakistani leaders who wanted to consolidate their position, went in for India-centric politics. To stay in power, they either show a great love for talks or war. They want to show fundamentalists they are ready to fight that kafir India. That is the problem. This attitude has to change. The times have changed. One cannot hate each other in the changed world.

Kashmir is not a big problem. We can strengthen our bonds in the areas of culture, media, trade and so on. Why cannot we do that? Pakistan should also be in search of peace.

Why do you think so?

Pakistan has lost everything it wanted to preserve. Its reputation all over the world now is of a State encouraging terrorism. Its economy is dwindling. Democracy has been buried. Its low literacy rate, poverty levels, unfulfilled aspirations of its youth -- all these have made it face a real bad time.

Vajpayee's invitation has given lot of credibility to Musharraf. After that, he became president. I do not doubt Pakistan's intentions of walking the peace lane.

What is the RSS thinking on the summit?

The RSS has clearly welcomed Vajpayee's initiative to hold talks. We stand with Vajpayee as far as this initiative is concerned.

Is the RSS in favour of a hardline approach?

There is no hardline or softline. There is only one line: the Indialine. We are one hundred per cent for safeguarding India's interests. This is the core issue for us.

In the interest of peace, will the government take a soft stance?

We completely trust the government will not do anything that will compromise the interests of the country.

We were talking of fundamentalist groups. There are fundamentalist groups in Pakistan all right, but there are fundamentalist groups in India too. Are they not vitiating the atmosphere and fanning hatred?

While we talk of India and Pakistan, we should not try to equate both the countries. What has India done? Pakistan has always been the aggressor. There is no comparison. There cannot be any comparison with Indian fundamentalist groups.

I do not know whom you are referring to when you say there are fundamentalist groups in India. But what do the so-called Indian fundamentalist groups do? They demonstrate. That is all. It is different from fundamentalist groups in Pakistan.

Issues like the Babri Masjid…

Who remembers the Babri Masjid? Only pseudo-seculars raise it without any significance to contemporary times. If one talks of the Babri (Masjid), one can talk of the destroyed temples in Pakistan. It is an endless circle. This is a pious time and we must talk of things that increase confidence in each other and not create acrimony.

Politics have mucked up things in both countries. Where is the reality really?

Once Pakistani leaders decide that terrorism will not yield results and people to people contact is strengthened, then the social fabric will do wonders in bringing both India and Pakistan together.

I have a friend who has just come from Pakistan. She tells me she gets numerous Indian publications there and Indian books are freely available in Islamabad. But here she does not find any publications or books from Pakistan.

We do not get each other's newspapers. We must get them. We get The Guardian, Time and the International Herald Tribune, but not Dawn or The Nation or Jang. There must be a free flow of information. Indian publications are easily available in Islamabad. But it is all smuggled. It is not a formal arrangement. Even paan and masalas are smuggled. You find Apollo Tyres everywhere. But they are routed via Afghanistan. We do not have direct trade links.

Musharraf said India was acting under pressure from the United States.

I really wonder why Musharraf spoke of American pressure. We did not expect it from him. On the eve of his visit, he tried to rob Vajpayee of the credit of inviting him.

Do you see scepticism around the summit?

Scepticism will be there. We are talking to a person with whom trust is yet to be built.

What should be the agenda?

The agenda should find ways for peace. People are tired of the bloodbath. Pakistan should be made to realise that terrorism would yield nothing.

Indo-Pak summit: The complete coverage
The Bus to Pakistan: The complete coverage

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