Hello and welcome to Devil’s Advocate. In a special two-part interview with the National Security Advisor M K Narayanan, I shall today discuss the the crisis in the Kashmir Valley and the Indo-US nuclear deal. Karan Thapar: We have seen lakh of people coming out, demanding azadi, carrying slogans, shouting jeve ji Pakistan, Bharat teri maut aayi and often the administration stands by and does nothing. As National Security Advisor, how serious is the situation in the Valley? M K Narayanan: I think far less serious than what is being portrayed, but at the same time it is certainly something that we are very unhappy about . Karan Thapar: Why do you say far less serious? M K Narayanan: People have started comparing it with 1990s and what not. Certainly the situation is nowhere near to that. But what is causing us concern is that four years of improvement in the situation, I believe that we have reduced levels of alienation. There were substantial signs of normal scenes in the state. People had forgotten about issues that had no major concern other than the day-to-day problems of living, better electricity, Internet connections, etc. It suddenly seems to have been pushed to the background and mobs have come out on the street. Karan Thapar: People say that during those four years when Kashmir looked as if it was approaching normalcy, the Government became complacent and it discontinued its talks with Hurriyat and therefore, today, in a sense, you are reaping the harvest of negligence. M K Narayanan: Contrary to what these people say, I don't think the Hurriyat is the principal voice in the Valley. We recognise that Hurriyat has certain voice, but I think there are mainstream political parties too. We have been having elections since 2000, well even before 2000. Karan Thapar: Isn't it worse than that? Hasn't it become a spontaneous movement with hundreds of thousands coming out not under the Hurriyat control, certainly not under PDP and National Conference control, but the people seem to have developed a mood, and it is a mood for azadi or secessionism. M K Narayanan: I would beg to disagree on this point. There was an agitation over the issue of what was wrongly referred to as handing over or diversion of land, when actually what was being done was user rights. But perhaps it was not unnecessary. It was an uncalled for mistake. Karan Thapar: But today it is way beyond Amarnath. M K Narayanan: I think it was the blockade on the national highway that produced a certain concern in the Valley. Karan Thapar: So, you accept that there was a blockade? M K Narayanan: For a day-and-a-half there was some disruption of traffic. It was not a total blockade but there was disruption. The truck traffic dropped, if there were say 100 trucks going, it came down to 15-20, but it was just for a day-and-a-half. But, today it is back to 85-90 trucks. Karan Thapar: And, then there was this shooting when the March to Muzaffarabad was first attempted. PAGE_BREAK M K Narayanan: I am on record and I am saying that we would like to know who did the shooting. Karan Thapar: Whom do you think you have raised the question about? If it wasn’t the police, as the press… M K Narayanan: This is a concern even amongst the Hurriyat and others saying that who is amongst us who is trying to eliminate some of us. Karan Thapar: You are saying that the Hurriyat accept that it wasn't the police? M K Narayanan: I know that they will never admit it. It was certainly not the police; he was shot in the back. Karan Thapar: You are talking about Sheikh Abdul Aziz? M K Narayanan: Yes, I am. Karan Thapar: You have any idea who it might have been? M K Narayanan: You'll know at the right time, I presume, when we'll be sure of who it was or which group was responsible. Karan Thapar: Does the finger point across the border at Pakistan? M K Narayanan: We have no facts at the moment against anyone. What we are clear about at this moment is that it was not the police. Karan Thapar: But if you have no facts how can you be clear it is not the police? M K Narayanan: Because there are lot of things in the circumstances. I mean he was shot in the back. The police who were on the front could not have shot him. I mean there are certain ways you can show how a thing was done. Now, you can find any number of excuses but the fact of the matter is, it may not be relevant in so many matters, that he is not a martyr to the cause that he is being made out of. Karan Thapar: He was murdered and he was murdered by the people who had a motive personally against him. M K Narayanan: Yes, and it is not the first time that this has happened. Karan Thapar: Have you discovered the bullet, have you done any autopsy? M K Narayanan: No, they took the body away. We didn't have a chance for a post-mortem, because then the facts would have been much clearer. Karan Thapar: Let me raise another issue with you. People say that there is no doubt that the last four years culminating in the summer of 2008 were, perhaps, the best since 1990. But, if Kashmir could blow up in such vast numbers so easily, it clearly suggests that the Valley was simmering all along and no one in the government appreciated and, worst, no one in the government realised. M K Narayanan: No, I think it has not been very difficult to close down the Valley from time to time. I think it has always been possible to sort of close down the Valley, particularly parts of the Valley, for instance, Srinagar town, Baramulla, Bandipur and what not. But, that is cold comfort I would say. The fact of the matter is that the concern about a blockade could have brought so many people out into the street. This is a matter of concern for us that people do nurse concerns saying that are we likely to feel sort of bottled up or not and that is why we are placing so much emphasis on reducing the agitation in the Jammu region because as long as that agitation persists, the danger or the likelihood of crowds coming onto the national highway exists. Karan Thapar: Except that now the blockage is three weeks old, even the shooting at the Muzaffarabad march is two-and-a-half or three weeks old but you still don't have a normal life. For 10 days and 10 districts, not one or two, have been under curfew that is a clear sign that if you don't have curfew you don't have control. M K Narayanan: Yes, there was a period, Muzaffarabad chalo, then there was some other sort of one or two bandhs relating to the funeral processions. Karan Thapar: So, you had to keep the curfew? M K Narayanan: No, first we allowed a lot of movement across. There was no effort from the administration to interfere with that and a new issue comes up every time. But when the Lal Chowk chalo came up and the feeling was that now these people are moving from what could be concerns, worries and problems into really a problem of trying to build up the azadi, that is why we cracked down. Karan Thapar: When do you think Kashmir will return to a anything like semblance of normalcy? M K Narayanan: We are hopeful that this could be achieved in next one week or 10 days. Karan Thapar: As soon as that, a week or ten days. M K Narayanan: Yes. Karan Thapar: You could have Srinagar going back to what it was like in June? M K Narayanan: Well, may not be like June but signs of normalcy in the sense what it can. PAGE_BREAK Indo-US Nuclear Deal Karan Thapar: Do you believe that the last Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting in Vienna represented a delay, a setback or a debacle for the Indo-US nuclear deal? M K Narayanan: It is clearly not a debacle. I do not think it was a setback. It was a pause in the programme. But we were prepared for this because we had been told that it might be necessary to have two rounds before we could finalise something, which was mutually satisfactory. Karan Thapar: As you prepare for the second meeting on September 4, which is just six days away, are you confident you can get clean exemption from the NSG, or have your confidence levels somewhat dipped? M K Narayanan: We have gone through these efforts many times. There are periods when you are highly elated and sometimes you feel rather despondent. I think after the discussions on the India-specific safeguard agreement, which took place in Vienna, we have a good idea of where other countries stand vis-à-vis India. In the first round, many of the concerns were suitably dealt with but some still remain. I think our problem with the NSG is primarily that we are not members of the NSG and therefore, we have to depend entirely on other countries to put forward our case. But I must say that countries like the United States, Russia, France, the UK and a number of others have done herculean efforts, and I think we are nearing the goal. Karan Thapar: Are you optimistic? You don't sound it by your tone. M K Narayanan: No, I am optimistic but I don't want to allow my optimism to override caution. Karan Thapar: Now we are speaking on Friday evening. You are six days away from the next NSG meeting. Has India been shown the new amended draft exemption? M K Narayanan: This is work in progress. I can't tell you exactly where we are on this question. Karan Thapar: Except for the fact that you are here on Friday evening, then there is weekend coming up, then it will be Monday and then just three days will be left. If you haven't been shown the draft exemption, isn't it running very close? M K Narayanan: No. We are running close but I don't think we have much of a problem on that. Karan Thapar: So you are confident that your concerns will be taken care of even though you can't admit whether you’ve seen the draft exemption or not? M K Narayanan: There is a constant dialogue that is going on between Delhi and Washington. So, we are fully aware of what is going on. Karan Thapar: There are three principal concerns that have been flagged. The first is simply to do with how extensive will the rewrite of the exemption be. Are you anticipating a very comprehensive (review), or are you hoping for cosmetic changes or something in between the two? M K Narayanan: We have sort of already flagged our concerns. Those concerns are well known. I think most of the countries recognised the validity of our concerns. There are some countries who, I think, are ideologically committed to the concepts or ideas of non-proliferation and hence tend to take a very hard-line position. I think it is really a question of convincing them that India, with its impeccable record of non-proliferation has always stood, if necessary, for the universal nuclear disarmament and is the right candidate for universal nuclear commerce. Karan Thapar: That I fully understand. But are you saying that this means you will accept only cosmetic changes rather than anything more substantial? M K Narayanan: There is no question of cosmetic or otherwise. What we are asking is that there are certain issues, which have been drawn in red lines by us because those are the commitments, which have been made by our Prime Minister. Karan Thapar: And, on those red lines you can't give way? M K Narayanan: On those red lines we can't because that’s what we have told Parliament. These are sacrosanct. If these are not met we cannot endorse the agreement. Karan Thapar: The press has highlighted three concerns. The first is the requirement that some NSG countries are talking about a condition wherein the exemption will terminate if India were to carry out further nuclear testing. Is there any way it could be reflected in the new, amended exemption, or would it be a deal breaker in any shape or form for India? M K Narayanan: I think you should give some credit to creative diplomacy in these matters. I presume that we will find a way out of it. It is difficult to say but I think it should be possible for us to surmount some of these obstacles. Karan Thapar: You mentioned creative diplomacy. Could you accept the form of language that is used in the 123 agreement, if it were to be used in this new NSG draft. In the 123 agreement, there is no actual mention of the specific word ‘nuclear testing’. Could that formulation suffice for you? M K Narayanan: We have always said that testing is a word that we find difficult to adjust with. Not because of anything else but because Parliament has mandated us to do so. Testing would be difficult for us. So, we will find ways around it. Karan Thapar: Leave testing apart, but is the rest okay? M K Narayanan: We are clear that whatever we finally agree to with the NSG countries, it will be something we can sell to Parliament. Karan Thapar: I think you have hinted a sort of formulation, the 123 language which doesn't mention testing could be acceptable provided it is acceptable to others. M K Narayanan: I hope that we can move forward on some of these issues. Karan Thapar: Second condition mentioned by the NSG countries is that the exemption should exclude Enrichment and Reprocessing (ENR) technologies. Given that India has its own ENR technologies, can you live with that exclusion or would that be a deal break? M K Narayanan: In case of the US, they have certain conditions about allowing the Enrichment and Reprocessing technologies to the countries but in the case of NSG, our case is different. We say that what we are asking the NSG does not have a ban on Enrichment and Reprocessing technologies. There is a broad ban, which the NSG has on many items with India, which includes any kind of nuclear commerce and related matters. What we are saying is that if you are giving us exemption on those items, please give us exemption because unlike the laws in the US none of the countries in the NSG have a ban imposed in their countries. Karan Thapar: Don't introduce a specific ban for India in this exemption? PAGE_BREAK M K Narayanan: Definitely, we don't want ourselves to be singled out for this. What we have made clear - and this is what all of us talked about – is if any country does not wish to give us Enrichment and Reprocessing technologies and still wishes to have nuclear commerce, we'll draw up our guidelines according to that. What we don't want is each country's individual predilections forming a huge package of items in the NSG exemptions. Karan Thapar: Quite right, let the NSG not take a position on this issue, let individual countries approach them to do it. Finally, there is also a demand for what is called a periodic review of India's compliance. Is that acceptable to you in any shape or form? M K Narayanan: No, we believe this is uncalled for. We have put all our cards on the table. We have been as transparent as anyone else and are willing to make our case before the NSG. So we don't understand what is the need for a review. Principally not because of anything else, but this is a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. It involves commerce, it involves people investing money, and countries investing money; it is a long-term agreement. They are putting money for 30 to 40 years, so if you have a review at the end of three years and somebody says that oh well this shouldn't be done then nobody is going to invest in this agreement. Karan Thapar: I understand, you make your position very clear on the testing issue, the ENR technology issue and the periodic review concern. But does America agree with your positions or do they have question marks or still do they have doubts about your positions? M K Narayanan: This question should probably be addressed to the US, but we have carried conviction to them, to the maximum extent possible. They understand where we come from and that they would help us in the matter. Karan Thapar: Let’s focus little on the US' role. Do you believe that Washington did enough to prevent the naysayer from pushing amendments or do you think that in fact Washington did not take as hard line as you would have liked it to have taken? M K Narayanan: This is a dangerous question you have asked me but let make me the point. When we were negotiating with the US, it was easier because the US knew what it could give and what it could not give. We recognised that the US is the world power. Militarily and economically it is one of the dominating countries in the world but even they have some limits. There is always a case of doing better. It is like preparing for examinations. Somebody could always say that you could have prepared more. I personally think that tremendous effort has been made by the US to help us in this matter, as have countries like France, Russia and others, where they could have done even more. But even after the first round is over, they are very actively involved. So frankly speaking, I have no complains to make. Karan Thapar: You are not criticising them, you are accepting that they made terrific efforts but you are holding up the possibility that they could have done more? M K Narayanan: Like in everything else, could I have made a better case before all these people but I have just been cautious so that somebody would pick up and say x, y and z. In as much as they have done in most other cases, they have done here as well. Karan Thapar: There is a view in the press that the American Ambassador's repeated assertion that India's requirement or insistence on unconditional exemption is both inappropriate and provocative. There has also been a position taken about how would Berman, the Chairman of the House Representatives, Foreign Affairs Committee actually telling Condoleezza Rice not to go ahead with exemptions that would in some way circumvent the Hyde Act. Has all of that been unhelpful? M K Narayanan: No, I think the American ambassador in New Delhi has been an extremely positive factor. Karan Thapar: So, the press has wrongly picked on him? M K Narayanan: I think they have a love-hate relationship with prominent US diplomats. I have interacted with Ambassador Mulford for the last four years very closely and I think he has done a tremendous job. Few ambassadors would have put as much effort as he has done. Yes, sometimes the statements he makes make people a little annoyed and upset but I think much the same can be said about me. So it's the part of the course. Karan Thapar: Let me put it like this: if the NSG were to grant you a clean exemption on September 4 or 5, but if the chairman of the NSG alongside were to make a statement listing a prescriptive list of suggestions — they are not conditions but suggestions — could India live with that? M K Narayanan: I presume it would be the Chairman's prerogative to make of what he says and what he likes but as long as they are not laid down as conditions, we have talked in terms of a clean exemption, an unconditional exemption. We have not said that there should be no whisper about what anybody wishes to say. We are not behaving like 16-year-olds and recognise that countries have problems. If the Chairman is making a statement, which reflects, to some extent, some of those points, may be. But as long as it does not inhibit us from what we believe is a clean and unconditional exemption, (it’s okay). Karan Thapar: Has India made it clear to countries like Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand, some of the Scandinavian countries (like) Ireland that if they insisted on imposing unacceptable conditions, it would have damaging impact on their bilateral relationships with New Delhi? M K Narayanan: No, as far as I am aware, we have not done any arm-twisting in this case. For that matter, several countries — Russia for instance — has actually offered to help us with Austria. So they are doing most of the talking. I don't think we have tried what I would call unscrupulous or underhand methods to pressurise. Karan Thapar: But you are not suggesting that the Austrians, the Irish or the Swiss could think they could impose conditions which you cannot accept and that there would be no damage to the bilateral relationships? M K Narayanan: Then, you should ask them. But I don't think we are making that the touchstone for a relationship. It is important, I presume that if someone were friendly with us, they would certainly get a benefit over somebody who is less friendly with us.