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PM's speech at the chief minister's conference on internal security

PM's speech at the chief minister's conference on internal security

Publication: BJP Today
Date: December 1-15, 2001

The Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated Chief Ministers' Conference on Internal Security here on Nov 17. Apart from Chief Ministers of various States, Union Home Minister Shri L.K. Advani, Defence Minister Shri George Fernandes, Union Minister for Law, Justice & Company Affairs Shri Arun Jaitley, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Shri K.C. Pant Minister of State in PMO, Shri Vijay Goel, Ministers of State, Home Shri I.D. Swami and Shri Vidya Sagar Rao were also present on the occasion.

Following is the text of the speech by the Prime Minister on the occasion:

"I am pleased to be with you at this important conference on Internal Security.

We have witnessed dramatic developments in the world as also in our own region, in recent months. These developments have significant implications for India's internal security, which need to be carefully and comprehensively assessed by us. Hence, this conference of Chief Ministers has acquired an added topical importance in the present context.

India has been coping with the menace of terrorism single-handedly for more than a decade. We had been trying to sensitize the international community to recognize terrorism and religious extremism as having become a potent threat to peace and a civilized world order. We had been alerting major countries of the world to the fact that some countries in our immediate neighbourhood had made export of terrorism and religious extremism an important instrument of their state policy.

We impressed upon them the urgent need to forge united global action against this global threat. I had specifically cautioned in my address to the US Congress last year that "distance offers no isolation" against this danger.

Our concerted efforts in this regard did have the desired effect to a certain extent. We were able to begin meaningful cooperation with several countries against terrorism. Nevertheless, it is only after the horrific terrorist attacks on the United States on 11th September that the world community woke up to the severity as well as the global reach of this threat.

The audacious nature of the terrorist attacks on September 11 made it inescapable for the USA, within the framework of an international coalition, to launch an offensive against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. We in India supported this war not only out of a sense of solidarity with the international resolve, but also because of our firm belief that the defeat of the Taliban and dismantling of the Al-Qaeda network is in our own vital national interest.

We are satisfied that the war in Afghanistan is now showing all the signs of coming to an early and successful conclusion. The Taliban are on the run from city after city in Afghanistan. The United Nations is actively trying to put in place a stable, broad-based and representative post-Taliban administration in that country. India will play an active and positive role in this endeavour.

We in India can be legitimately satisfied that our diplomatic efforts in the past two months have found support among almost all countries in the world. My recent visit to Russia, USA and the UK gave me an opportunity to know, first hand, that India's principled stand on terrorism and religious extremism was highly appreciated by the leaderships of these countries. The same was also evident during the visits of many international dignitaries to New Delhi in the aftermath of September 11.

Today, more than ever before during the past five decades, the international community appreciates the correctness of India's stand on the Kashmir issue. Major nations around the world have acknowledged - some of them for the first time - that there cannot be double standards in identifying and tackling terrorism. The self-evident truth that terrorism and killing of innocent people cannot be justified on any political, ideological or religious grounds has now become evident even to those who earlier preferred either to ignore it or to rationalize it.

In all our talks with our friends abroad, we have emphasized that the fight against terrorism should not be limited to fighting only certain symbols or symptoms. Rather, it has to be launched on a broader front. All murderous groups, wherever they may be -- in Kashmir or elsewhere - must be declared as terrorist organisations by all civilized nations. Their sources of funding have to be plugged. Countries giving safe sanctuaries or any other kind of support to them must be placed under sanctions. There should also be a concerted awareness campaign against extremist ideologies that misuse the name of religion. Our view is that unless this is done, the basic problem will remain.

I am happy to note that the international opinion is now veering round to India's sound perspective on this matter. Needless to add, all this augurs well for our own relentless battle against terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere in India.

The situation in Jammu & Kashmir is showing signs of improvement. I must compliment the Chief Minister and his brave Cabinet colleagues as well as the legislators who are leading the fight against terrorism. The gruesome terrorist attack on the Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly building on October 1 opened the eyes of many foreign governments and made them realize the truth of India's contention on cross-border terrorism.

Dear Chief Ministers, I have dwelt briefly on India's diplomatic campaign in the wake of September 11 because of the inseparable linkage between our internal security concerns and the external environment in the region and the world. Our foreign policy has always been a product of the national consensus. You will agree that the time has come to similarly make even our policy on internal security a matter of national consensus.

Today's conference is a conscious effort to reinforce and further evolve such a consensus.

The unfolding developments in our neighbourhood have shaken and under-mined the confidence of the terrorist groups operating in our country. Simultaneously, our security forces, too, have achieved major successes in their offensive against these forces.

It is possible that terrorist and extremist groups, out of desperation, might try to create some mischief. We need to be vigilant to face such threats.

As I have repeatedly stated in the past, neither these groups nor their mentors abroad should be under any illusion about India's determination or capability to decisively defeat those who challenge our security or our national unity.

This warning is also directed at the militant groups in the North-East and the left-wing extremists who continue to be active in some States.

I congratulate the Chief Ministers for taking firm measures to maintain communal peace and harmony against serious provocations. Communal violence did break out in a few places, but it was brought under control relatively rapidly.

We have come across a number of cases where conspiracies for terrorist action have spread across a number of States. Although discussions on this were initiated a year back, we do not as yet have any agency in place, which can take on and pursue such cases on it own. Until we have such a federal agency, the key to success will be cooperation and timely exchange of intelligence between the Centre and the States and among States themselves.

I would request you to impress upon the agencies under your command the need to deepen and broaden the scope of such cooperation.

Every country, which is under threat of terrorism, is tightening its immigration laws and procedures. India is high on the list terrorist's targets, but our structures and procedures are lax. We have a porous border with several neighbours. Our long seacoast also needs to be better patrolled. A large number of foreign nationals who have come on visitor's visas have become traceless. These vulnerabilities need to be plugged.

In the North-East our attempts at dialogue have been moving on promising lines. I know that rapid and all-round development is the most important component in our strategy to bring peace and democratic stability to the region. We have accordingly appointed a Minister to head the newly created Department of North-East Development. While the Centre is prepared to do everything for security and progress in the North-East, I urge the State Governments in the region to strengthen their own efforts to fight militancy and effectively implement all developmental policies and programmes.

In my address at the meeting of the Inter-State Council yesterday, I referred to the need for a free and frank debate on the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, which the Centre has promulgated recently. The circumstances that have compelled us to bring in this legal instrument are well known to you. We have held consultations with State Governments and the Law Commission before taking this step. We have also taken care to remove the shortcomings in TADA, which lapsed some years ago without a successor anti-terrorism law.

I have the fullest confidence that you will give your studied views on this ordinance, consistent with your own assessment of the nation's security needs.

A major difficulty facing us is the enormous delays in the trials because of the huge pendencies in the judicial system. It is the major factor in shockingly low conviction rates. Because of this inefficiency in our criminal justice administration system, appropriate punishment is not visited upon criminals who find themselves free to commit further crimes with impunity. This has lead to erosion in the people's faith in the rule of law. This basic lacuna in our law enforcement system needs to be addressed squarely and quickly.

Urgent attention also needs to be paid to the primary instrument available to us for internal security - the State police forces. I had last year approved a quantum increase in the financial assistance to the States for modernising their police forces by way of equipping them with modern communication systems, transport facilities, weapons etc. I would like this plan to be implemented with a sense of urgency.

The terrorist attacks of September 11 have sharply highlighted the need for having a sound and dependable disaster management system. We need such a system to deal with both natural disasters as well as multiple threats to our internal security. We should also be prepared to face new types of threats arising out of chemical, biological and nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorist groups.

We have taken steps to sensitise the State Governments about these dangers. Being the first responders, the State Governments must constitute requisite number of Quick Response Teams, armed with specialized training and state-of-the-art equipment. Both the Centre and the States also need to create a good inventory of the resources available at various places and a plan to mobilize them in best possible ways for disaster management.

Chief Ministers, this Conference is important because it gives us an opportunity to come together and survey the many tasks and challenges facing us. The nation expects us to work together to reliably strengthen our internal security, based on a broad consensus in thought and action.

I am sure that today's conference will meet the demands of our time and the expectations of our people.

Thank you".

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