Prime Minister's concluding remarks at the Chief Minister's conference

July 07, 1999
New Delhi

We have had a very focussed and fruitful discussion on the Kargil situation. Also on some of the issues relating to internal security in our country.

As many as 28 Chief Ministers, Administrators and representatives from three Union Territories, took part in the meeting. I have profited greatly from it and would like to thank all of you for sparing the time to come here and share your perspectives with us.

It is clear from our discussions that the country stands united on the need to repulse the enemy across the Line of Control. Today, we have spoken in one voice.

In spite of the many political differences, the participants in today's conference have once again upheld the principle of giving primacy to national security over everything else. Today only one determination dwells in the hundred crore hearts in India - the determination to beat back the enemy's armed aggression.

This unity is our strength. The conference of the Chief Ministers has reflected our unity and hence our strength. It boosts the morale and the fighting spirit of our jawans on the borders like nothing else does.

I, therefore, congratulate the Chief Ministers and Governments of all the States for heir unflinching support to the Armed Forces and to the Union Government in this hour of trial.

I have also been reassured by the consensus, which has been reflected in the discussions today, on the need for us to do everything possible for the families of the soldiers and airmen who have lost their lives in the current operation.

I have been touched by the spontaneous expressions of support that I have seen throughout the country from all sections of society, all of them wanting to do their bit for the brave men who are fighting to safeguard our nation's security. I am sure this must have been your experience, too.

Soon after the Kargil action started, voluntary contributions to the National Defence Fund and other funds operated by the Defence Headquarters have started pouring in - both from the country and from abroad. A meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Defence Fund was held yesterday. Several major decisions were taken at the meeting.

A very good suggestion has been made in today's conference on constituting a committee to evolve a National Policy on welfare of our jawans and ex-servicemen on a permanent and institutionalised basis. I am happy to announce the constitution of such a committee comprising the following members :

Another welcome suggestion has been made for the erection of a fitting national martyrs memorial to all the soldiers who have laid down their lives in defence of the Motherland in all the wars since 1947. Your acclaim implies its acceptance. The Government, in consultation with all the political parties and State Governments, will soon take appropriate action in the matter.

I have also noted the support that has been expressed today for our diplomatic efforts. These are not intended in any way to blunt the cutting edge of our military, but are a supplement to those efforts. Today's conference has demonstrated the complete consensus amongst us that there shall be no internationalisation of the Kashmir question.

Some participants have referred to the joint statement issued by the US President Mr. Bill Clinton and the Pakistani Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif. This is a welcome development. I would, however, like to assure you that it does not create any scope for third-party mediation in the Kashmir issue. India is firmly committed to the principle of bilateralism in resolving this issue and there will be no deviation whatsoever from it. Indeed, the United States itself has stated that the issue should be resolved in a bilateral framework.

At today's conference we have also discussed in fairly concrete terms the internal security situation. We all recognise the need to raise our vigilance in this matter and I am sure that the Home Ministry and the various security agencies will be equal to the challenge. Corruption at the ground level is the root of many of our troubles in this regard and we must combat this particular evil with greater resoluteness than we have done so far.

Some members have made the suggestion for a Rajya Sabha session to discuss Kargil, and also the presentation of a White paper on the subject. This suggestion was also made at the recent All-Party meeting. At both meetings, the discussions have revealed a sharp division of opinion. I shall, however, continue to evolve a consensus on the matter by examining the proposal afresh. We have already had two All-Party meetings. We will convene more meetings of the leaders of all political parties as and when necessary. Another meeting of the Chief Minister can be called.

Once again I thank you all for sparing your time and for sharing your views and analysis with me.

Thank you.