Terrorists don’t play by rules, so country’s response to them can’t have rules: Jaishankar

Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India was committed to responding to any act of terrorism perpetrated from across the borders. He also asserted, “Terrorists do not play by any rules. The response to terrorists cannot have any rules.”

Jaishankar launches book in Pune
Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (third from right) launches the Marathi translation of his book Why Bharat Matters in Pune. Photo courtesy: X@DrSJaishankar

The minister launched the Marathi translation of his book, titled Why Bharat Matters, in Pune, Maharashtra, yesterday. While in the city, he interacted with the youth, and spoke of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 and its aftermath.

A film titled Hotel Mumbai, starring PIO actor Dev Patel, was made on the 2008 attack a decade later.

This was an unprecedented episode of terrorism in the history of independent India, as Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists from Pakistan invaded luxury hotels and public spaces in Mumbai, took hostages, and openly gunned down civilians. More than 150 people were killed; nine terrorists were shot dead, while one was arrested and later hanged.

Sharply criticising the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) dispensation at the Centre over its response to the 26/11 terror attacks, Jaishankar said that after a lot of deliberation at the government level, “nothing fruitful came out” at that time, as it was felt that the cost of attacking Pakistan was more than not attacking it.

Interacting with the youth yesterday at an event titled ‘Why Bharat Matters: Opportunity for youth and participation in global scenario’ in Pune, the minister asked that if a similar attack were to happen now and if one did not react to it, how could the next such attacks be prevented.

Jaishankar also said that the country’s foreign policy had undergone a change since 2014, especially the way terrorism was dealt with.

Asked about countries with which India found it challenging to maintain relationships, Jaishankar said that India should question whether it should maintain any relationship with certain countries.

“Well, one is just next to us. Let us be honest, the one country that is very, very difficult is Pakistan, and for that, we should only introspect why. One reason for this is us,” he said, in a reference to how Pakistani terrorism had been handled by past Indian governments.

Had India been clear from the start that Pakistan was indulging in terrorism, which India should not have tolerated under any circumstances, the country would have had a vastly different policy, said Jaishankar.

“In 2014, Modiji came. But this problem (terrorism) did not start in 2014. It did not begin with the Mumbai attack. It happened in 1947. In 1947, the first people (invaders) came to Kashmir, they attacked Kashmir. It was an act of terrorism. They were burning down villages and towns. They were killing people. These people were tribals from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province. The Pakistan army backed them. We sent the army, and the integration of Kashmir took place,” said Jaishankar.

“While the Indian army was taking action, we stopped in the middle and went to the UN, mentioning that the attack was by tribal invaders, instead of terrorism, as if it was a legitimate force,” he said.

Jaishankar added that in the 1965 Indo-Pak war, Pakistan had first sent infiltrators to sabotage India.

“We have to be very clear in our minds about terrorism; under no circumstances is terrorism acceptable from any neighbour or from anyone who uses terrorism to force you to sit at the negotiating table. This should never be accepted,” said the foreign minister.

He mentioned that sometimes he was asked about the continuity in India’s foreign policy and then he responded clearly that there was 50 per cent continuity and 50 per cent change.

“One change is regarding terrorism,” said Jaishankar. “After the 26/11 Mumbai attack, there was not a single person in the country who felt that we should not have responded to the attack. Everybody in the country felt it. There is an account of that time.

“The NSA had written that this minister looked at it, that minister looked at it. Everybody deliberated, a lot of analysis took place, and then it was decided that the cost of attacking Pakistan is more than not attacking Pakistan. So after a lot of deliberation, nothing fruitful came out.”

Then the minister emphasised, “They (terrorists) should not feel that since they are across the border, no one can touch them. Terrorists do not play by any rules. The response to terrorists cannot have any rules.”