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Manmohan Singh didn’t speak much, but did as much to fight terror: former NSA Narayanan

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All governments are concerned about fighting terror. But international collaboration on countering terrorism has improved tremendously in the last 10 years, Narayanan tells ThePrint.

New Delhi: The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks more about countering terrorism does not mean that the UPA was not doing much on the ground to prevent terror attacks, says former national security advisor M.K. Narayanan. “Dr. Manmohan Singh wasn’t inclined to speak, I mean he hardly ever spoke on anything, whereas the present Prime Minister does so – but that doesn’t take away from what’s happening on the ground,” Narayanan told ThePrint in an interview. Excerpts from a conversation that touched upon the 26/11 attacks, the need to maintain a balance between fighting terror and maintaining the country’s diversity, and why the world needs major global powers to ensure order:

The NDA government is perceived to have a better track record of fighting terrorism than the UPA, under whom major attacks took place. Do you agree?

MKN: Correlating the number of attacks with the nature of the ruling government is an error. It is true that the present government talks a lot about controlling terror, but I think every government does its best to ensure that there are no terror attacks in their country.

A lot of younger people who are on the fringes feel very happy about the fact that the government is taking steps or at least talking about it. For instance, Dr. Manmohan Singh wasn’t inclined to speak, I mean he hardly ever spoke on anything, whereas the present Prime Minister does so – but that doesn’t take away from what is happening on the ground.

But you can see that we have not used some of the draconian measures that have been adopted by some of the other countries, including the United States, which involves profiling people and other such measures. And therefore, in a country of this diversity, we have maintained a degree of what we call relative peace – if you take the size of the country, the nature of the population, and the fact that on our borders we have a country like Pakistan, which is sponsoring terror.

Do you think there is reason for us also to take the draconian route?

MKN: I think the government has enough understanding of the situation. But a lot of people would like to have a zero-terror situation. The question is how to achieve a terror-free state. Yes, there is a terror situation, but the rest of the time you have to live in relative peace, so that you don’t feel like you are living in a controlled environment.

Has the NDA government followed up on the promises made by Pakistan to the UPA regime?

MKN: This government is equally concerned to ensure that we don’t have another 26/11. But 26/11 was an entirely different situation. The nature of terror changes from time to time. In the past 10 years, I would say, the international collaboration on terror has improved tremendously. I mean the case pertaining to David Coleman Headley – I mean, if that kind of information had been available to us, much more could have been done to avoid the attacks. But I hope that sort of a situation is not taking place today because there is better understanding among continents.

Do you think the likelihood of a military conflict is higher given the new world order?

MKN: By and large, nations are wary of military conflicts. But when you had one or two big powers, they could always rush in to prevent smaller conflicts from escalating; that has come down. So who do you turn to? The United Nations Security Council has never succeeded in preventing a military conflict. It has always been a major power, such as the US and Russia. So, in that sense, situations are trickier now. I won’t say we are nearer to a conflict. But you have a concatenation of circumstances, which makes preventing a conflict more difficult than if you have one or two major powers.

Is a multipolar world, a more dangerous place to live in, than a unipolar world?

MKN: It depends on how many poles you have. If you have two or three big powers, I think it is better than a unipolar world. A unipolar world means that you are entirely constrained by the wishes and attitudes of that one power. But two or three power centres could also collaborate towards having a better world order than we have today.

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