Time to change tactics against Naxals, Chidambaram tells NDTV

New DelhiPchidambaramnew216.jpgOn a day when over 30 people were killed in a Maoist attack in Dantewada, Home Minister P Chidambaram spoke exclusively to NDTV on a range of issues, including the government's Maoist strategy, Mamata Banerjee's demand for early polls in West Bengal and the need for a caste census.

Here's the full transcript of the interview with Home Minister P Chidambaram:

Dr Prannoy Roy: One year after UPA-2 won the last election, we asked voters, through our nationwide opinion poll, if they feel safer today than a year ago. 56% of them said Yes, they feel safer. That's a fair endorsement because generally people do like to complain. We also asked them what they feel about Mr Chidambaram's performance as a Home Minister and 61 per cent of them rated it as Good. There was however, a substantial section of people in the rural areas who couldn't make up their mind. On the specific question of Naxals, we asked voters if the Army should be used to fight them and 67 per cent, that is just 2/3rd of the country, said Yes, the Army should be used. (One year of UPA-2: NDTV Opinion Poll)

Mr Chidambaram, thank you very much for joining us. First about today's incident. What exactly happened, what are the details you're getting?

P Chidambaram: I spoke to the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh and found out that it was a regular commercial bus service. There were about 15-20 civilians, some Special Police Officers, maybe a handful of police constables or sub-inspectors .There was a landmine and the bus was blown up. (Read & Watch: Dantewada bus blast toll 31, PM to review Naxal strategy)

Barkha Dutt: Is it your assessment this time that they were targeting civilians and not the jawans specifically?

P Chidambaram: I don't think they make a distinction between central police, state police forces, SPOs or civilians. They simply kill and then find a reason to justify their killing. Over the past weekend, yesterday and day before, the Naxals had killed twelve civilians in four states and named all of them policemen or police informers. (Watch: Exclusive interview with P Chidambaram)

Barkha Dutt: Moving on to the wider question of an Anti-Naxal policy for the government that you represent.. You are at the receiving end of some these rumblings from your own party. Eg: Digvijay Singh raising questions in a signed article in The Economics Times that there doesn't appear to be a political consensus on this issue, not even within the UPA. Has this, in a sense, tied at least one hand of yours behind your back as you deal with Naxals?

P Chidambaram: We have always had a policy and I was always clear about what the policy was. The Prime Minister was quite clear in his mind and I think he spoke about it at the Panchayat Raj conference a couple of weeks ago. I think Mrs Gandhi is also very clear and she gave expression to her views in the article in Sandesh. It was always a two-pronged policy but I concede that some discussion in recent weeks may have weakened one of the two prongs.

Barkha Dutt: The security prong?

P Chidambaram: Well yes. Now that debate is inevitable in a democracy. But we must be clear in our minds that the policy must have two prongs. After today's incident, after what happened over the weekend and what happened on April 6, I think there is a lot for which certain civil society organisations must answer. I concede government has to answer for a lot too. There are police excesses and government has to answer if human rights are deliberately violated. We are answering when HRC asks this question, we are filing affidavits when Supreme Court asks this question, we are asking our counsel to explain. We acknowledge that we are accountable, we will always remain accountable and we will answer. Like wise shouldn't civil society organisations answer for what happened today and what happened over the last two weeks in the light of what they have written and spoken in the last several months.

Dr Prannoy Roy: There is this romanticisation and it's almost fashionable to be sympathetic towards this form of terrorism. In many ways, there's a section in Pakistan that's sympathetic towards their form of terrorism, so there is a parallel there. So overall when you look into the incident today, is it very different from the last one? You took the last attack rather personally. You yourself said you offered to resign. Was that a bit extreme and is this one very different from that?

P Chidambaram: Life is life. Any life which is taken away wantonly, deliberately and cruelly, leaves me very pained. The last incident was a different one although the battalion was given to the government of Chhattisgarh; it was a battalion which replaced an earlier battalion. They've had a battalion there for over four years. I could have said that I gave this battalion to the Government of Chhattisgarh, they didn't deploy it properly. That would not have been a right thing to do or say because it was entirely a CRPF force, there was only one head constable. The decision to deploy was taken by the new DIG of CRPF in consultation with IG of State Police. Since it was 75 lives belonging to the CRPF family and there was a failure of command and control by CRPF officers, I felt, and feel even now, that in that case the buck stopped at my table.

Barkha Dutt: But there are those who believe in a sense that you distracted the debate from the main issue by focusing so much on civil rights groups, on intellectuals. Many people are asking if you are trying to police thought, because it is one thing to go after the people who do this and another to go after those who may say look, they have a point. Even Congress president said that it was at one level about the failure of development reaching the grassroots.

P Chidambaram: I am not denying it. That's why I say- there is a two-pronged approach.

Barkha Dutt: Why focus on civil right groups?

P Chidambaram: Because they are tying down the hands of the security forces. Eg: The Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh told me that virtually every week he has to depute a senior officer to Delhi to brief his council in a number of cases that are in the Supreme Court or to brief the council in the high courts. I think the focus of the state governments and the action that has to be taken by the state security forces is to a large extent being compromised or weakened by these organisations which question the government's intentions and not question the motives of the Naxalites.

Dr Prannoy Roy: Do you see some of the sympathy emanating from the fact that they don't see this as a war. They don't see this as a serious issue like most of the countrymen- 67 per cent of whom feel that you should use the Army against Naxals.

P Chidambaram: I am not surprised by that result at all.

Dr Prannoy Roy: You are not surprised?

P Chidambaram: Not at all. Infact I told someone just half an hour ago that if you take a poll, you will find that people are further to a harder position that the government can take or should take. I am not defending the hard position but the people have a harder position than the government's position.

Dr Prannoy Roy: Most strategic analysts or ex-Army people handling any kind of war situation or guerilla war situation tell the best way is to act early and act firmly.

P Chidambaram: We didn't act early because we allowed this to fester for many years. Nearly 10 years. We under estimated the gravity of the situation.

Dr Prannoy Roy: Are we still underestimating?

P Chidambaram: No. Not in my mind.
 
Barkha Dutt: Is there consensus within the government? That's the key question on the issue. Let's talk about specifics, eg: air support, I am not saying air power. The Cabinet Committee on Security previously has not endorsed this approach. After what happened today, do you believe that you will be able to make a more effective case? Will you be making a more effective case for use of air support in these regions?
 
P Chidambaram: I can only implement the mandate as is given to me. Now I believe that collective wisdom is better than individual judgement.

Barkha Dutt: But you want air support for your operations?

P Chidambaram: The security forces and the Chief Ministers want air support. Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Orissa have all asked for air support. They are the men on the ground.

Barkha Dutt: Why can't you convince your government?

P Chidambaram: Well, I'll try.

Dr Prannoy Roy: Do you see air support coming soon? How many more lives have to be lost before we realise that this is a real war that we are facing?

P Chidambaram: I don't use the word war Prannoy. I don't like to use that word. I've never use that word, I haven't used the word enemy. But the entire CPI Maoist literature is spattered with the words War and Enemy on every page, be that as it may.

Dr Prannoy Roy: So they are calling other Indians enemies?

P Chidambaram: They are calling the state, the security forces as the enemy. Infact they describe the forces as enemy forces and they call this a war. I don't like those words .It's a challenge that we have to face, a challenge that questions the very basis of the system of government that we have. There are genuine grievances and . I can understand how these genuine grievances can give rise to rebellion. But that rebellion must in our system be channelised into throwing out the present government and electing a new government be at the State or Centre.

Dr Prannoy Roy: But they win any votes in any elections?

P Chidambaram: Well, they disrupt elections. They try to field proxy candidates in elections. They support some people who will then support them if they're elected. They are very clever, they are very devious in their ways. But going back to what I was saying, I can understand even the justness in the rebellion, but given our system, you can throw the system out. Given our system, that rebellion has only one channel, namely fighting elections, replacing government. And implementing new policies.
 
Barkha Dutt: An overwhelming number of people- as many as 61 per cent have said you've been good as a Home Minister.

Dr Prannoy Roy: And Barkha Dutt, the Home Ministry is meant to be the graveyard of all politicians.
 
Barkha Dutt: Clearly that's not the case.

Barkha Dutt: On a more serious note, your critics say that you've failed to create a consensus within the government. You've failed to create a consensus between the CMs on this approach, that you're a great minister but you're a unilaterist. How do you respond to that criticism?

P Chidambaram: No Chief Minister has found fault with my approach so far.

Barkha Dutt: Nitish Kumar?

P Chidambaram: No.

Barkha Dutt: Doesn't attend meetings that you call.

P Chidambaram: What Nitish Kumar says in public may be to address a certain constituency. But I have his letters to me. His DGP and Chief Secretary asked for 24 companies. I wrote back to him saying you were not present at the meeting and I understand you were preoccupied but will you please go over to Delhi so that we can discuss how these 24 companies are to be deployed. To which he wrote back saying that I actually want 70 companies. So no one actually disagrees with the approach that I advocated.

Barkha Dutt: Except Mr Digvijay Singh.

P Chidambaram: That I argued before the CCS and I got a limited mandate. I've no quarrel. As I've said before, a collective wisdom of the cabinet committee is definitely superior and better than individual judgment and I am implementing the cabinet committee's limited mandate.

Barkha Dutt: Are you unhappy with the limited nature of the mandate?

P Chidambaram: Well, I took to the cabinet committee a case for a larger mandate. I was given a limited mandate. Now we'll go back to the cabinet committee. I've already spoken to the Prime Minister. I've said this before also that we will go back to the cabinet committee to revisit that mandate in the light of the revised strategy that the CPI Maoist is following, of which we have enough evidence and intelligence.

Barkha Dutt: As we close down on the subject, just one last question. Digvijay Singh came to meet you after calling you intellectually arrogant. Did he apologise?

P Chidambaram: That's not an important issue, so we'll leave it there.

Dr Prannoy Roy: A lot of people are knocking on your door to say sorry these days. How do you react to them when they come and say sorry?

P Chidambaram: Well, I and the garb I wear are two different things. I'm secure inside. If anyone offers an apology, it's an apology to the Home Minister. Doesn't matter to me. I've always kept this distinction in the forms that I take and who I am inside.

Barkha Dutt: So has the Home Minister accepted the apology of Digvijay Singh and Jairam Ramesh? Is that a closed chapter for you or do you think it raises more serious questions?

P Chidambaram: All those chapters are closed because I have to get on doing my job and my job is to deal with the problem and the problem as you would've noticed is becoming more and more acute as the days pass by.

Dr Prannoy Roy: I think I've mentioned this before that this 61 per cent shows that it's not the graveyard for you. So you're bucking the trend?

P Chidambaram: There are other things that have happened. As I said in the debate, the job of a Home Ministry is not only to deal with Naxals. We've had nearly 18 months of remarkably terror-free period, except for one incident in Pune which I say with regret was because of the failure of the establishment itself to observe minimum security precautions.

Barkha Dutt: By establishment you mean the German Bakery?

P Chidambaram: The German Bakery. We've had nearly 18 months of a remarkably communal conflagration free period. There has not been a major communal incident. We've had major successes in the Northeast, keeping aside the present impasse in Manipur. We have virtually the entire leadership of the HTJ, the NDFB and all but Paresh Baruah of the ULFA in custody. We have half a dozen groups in the Northeast talking to our interlocutor. We have now reached a stage where they are drafting agreements. 2009 in Kashmir has seen the lowest number of incidents, the lowest number of lives lost, the lowest level of violence so that we could withdraw 30,000 troops from Kashmir.

P Chidambaram: All these tend to build confidence in the people. On the Naxal front, Yes, while we have made progress in three districts of India, we have suffered major setbacks in Chhattisgarh.
 
Dr Prannoy Roy: Just one last thing about today. Are you going to take any action on what's happened today?

P Chidambaram: The Chief Minister sent a rescue team as of half an hour ago. The SP had not reached the place. He will perhaps reach the place shortly. If there are any injured, they will be evacuated.

Dr Prannoy Roy: But anyone to blame?

P Chidambaram: I don't know. This is not the central police organisation.

Dr Prannoy Roy: Are you going to fly there?

P Chidambaram: No, I have no plans to fly there unless the chief minister wants me to. I've told the chief minister that after he's able to deal with the immediate situation, maybe I will request him to go over to Delhi. We need to revisit our tactical operations in Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh and Orissa are the flashpoints now.

Barkha Dutt: Is the Prime Minister of the view that the overall policy needs a relooking at? Just to go back to what you call a limited mandate, I'm sure you've discussed this at the very top. Is there a feeling within the government that this limited mandate needs to be expanded?

P Chidambaram: Well, I was with the Prime Minister an hour ago when we broke the news to him and he indicated he will call a meeting of the CCS home.

Barkha Dutt: Now the other big conflagration is Pakistan.

Dr Prannoy Roy: You are going to Pakistan very soon and we asked all the voters in our sample, which is over 34,000 - How should India deal with Pakistan? Should we be friends? Should we fight them or should we just ignore Pakistan? 39 per cent said we should be friends, 35 per cent said fight and 16 per cent said just ignore that country. So basically 39+16...55 per cent said don't fight. Is that the approach you think you need- A hardline with Pakistan or ignore them completely or is this rapprochement or is dialogue the best way forward?

P Chidambaram: Pakistan is our neighbour and I think in the long term neighbors must be friends. At the moment, the ruling establishment in Pakistan, at least on matters concerning infiltration into Kashmir and supporting terrorist organisations like the LeT, is either powerless or is supporting them. Either way, it is a very unfriendly situation. So while in the long run we must find a way to be friendly good neighbours, in the short run we must remain vigilant.

Barkha Dutt: One of the criticisms of the Government has been the lack of consistency and once again a lack of unity on the Pakistan policy. The Prime Minister is seen as somebody almost entirely focused on this being the center piece of his Government. Somehow bring peace with Pakistan. At least this being his biggest foreign policy ambition. Others like yourself seem to be skeptic. I remember before the Foreign Secretaries met in Delhi, you pretty much indicated that you did not expect much from those talks. Your prophecy in a sense came to be true. Then we suddenly saw this thaw in Thimpu. Can you explain to our viewers what determined the change? Why is it that if your government had a certain position on how the Pakistani state had failed to respond on issues of 26/11 trial and so on..what explains the bilateral in Bhutan?

P Chidambaram: I thought I explained the answer last time too. How long can we say we can't talk? Where does it take us? How long can we say I stand here..I won't move? I won't talk to you..how long can we say that? As I said we must talk to them, we must find every opportunity to talk to them. And your goal of these talks must be that in the long term we become good friendly neighbours. But in the immediate term, in the short term, since we know what is happening on the ground and, pardon the modesty, since I know more than most others what is happening everyday across borders through communications, through infiltrations and then supporting people to come into rest of India. We must be vigilant. We cannot afford to lower our guard but that does not mean we should not talk or we should not seize an opportunity to talk. I don't think there is any contradiction. I speak and I'm obliged to speak as home minister, therefore my brief is a narrow brief. The PM is a much larger brief namely how you establish good friendly relations with our neighbour in the long term.

Dr Prannoy Roy: When you say powerless or turning a blind eye, there is a huge difference between the two.

P Chidambaram: I said this or that.

Dr Prannoy Roy: Which side do you lean on? Do you think they are powerless because they have been attacked by bombs themselves or they are turning a blind eye to terrorism against India?

P Chidambaram: Well I think the ISI is certainly not powerless. The ISI is openly supporting terrorist groups but perhaps there are some in the government who are powerless.

Dr Prannoy Roy: The Army?

P Chidambaram: I don't know..Army is powerless.

Barkha Dutt: The dossiers that you handed over to Pakistan actually talk about two serving Pakistan Army Officers being involved in 26/11 attack.

P Chidambaram: Yes.

Barkha Dutt: And that is something Pakistan has flatly denied. Is there enough evidence to back that claim?

P Chidambaram: There is and there is confirmation from David Headley.

Barkha Dutt: What about Haafiz Saeed. He has become a kind of red rag for many Indians who see him walking free in Pakistan. In the actual verdict on Kasab, the judge spoke about circumstantial evidence against Haafiz Saaed. Will we see NIA now chargesheeting Haafiz Saaed formally and maybe even asking for extradition?

P Chidambaram: No. Haafiz Saaed was chargesheeted in 26/11 case.

Barkha Dutt: There wasn't a conclusion found...

P Chidambaram: No there is. Of course he is found guilty.

Barkha Dutt: So what will the government do next viz a viz Haafiz Saaed. Will you ask for his extradition?

P Chidambaram: Let the case come to an end. The case is not over yet.

Barkha Dutt: But on principle on Haafiz Saeed?

P Chidambaram: Of course we will ask for the extradition of the wanted accused. Not that we expect Pakistan to extradite them. But the wanted accused must be extradited. If we catch them somewhere, we will certainly bring them here.

Barkha Dutt: You said in the Parliament that the Pune case has been cracked. But you did not share which groups might be involved?

P Chidambaram: Because I don't wish to share that.

Barkha Dutt: But is that connected to Pakistan?

P Chidambaram: Can't say yet. We have cracked the case is not what I said. That's what the Pune police said. Infact they said it much before and it was not noticed by the media. When I said it in the Parliament, it got noticed. But I wanted to assure the Parliament that we have not forgotten the Pune case. As far as I am concerned it was as bad and as grave as the Mumbai case. It happened on my watch therefore I was very keen to take it to its logical conclusion. And I was quite satisfied when the Pune police was able to, ATS there was able to crack the case.

Dr Prannoy Roy: You were again in the news a couple of days ago about bringing the Bengal elections forward. Mamata Banerjee said she spoke to you and Bengal elections must be brought forward. Did Mamata Banerjee speak to you?

P Chidambaram: But she speaks to me on a number of subjects. I think she wants, she would like Bengal elections to be brought forward. But I don't think there is a connection between the two.

Dr Prannoy Roy: And have you said yes or said any reason to be brought forward?

P Chidambaram: Who am I to bring an election forward.

Barkha Dutt: She has quoted you and you are in the picture and she has discussed this with you. She suggested that she has given you an assent.

P Chidambaram: No. She has not suggested anything like that. Please understand election in this country are to be called, dates have to be fixed by the Election Commission. They can do that at anytime within a period of 6 months before the term comes to an end. To that extent, Mamataji is constitutionally correct. But we are nowhere in the twilight period of 6 months.

Dr Prannoy Roy: But there is no reason you have given, no security or any reason the Home ministry should give for an early election?

P Chidambaram: We don't come into the picture at all

Dr Prannoy Roy: Unless you want to have President's rule. That's the only option Home Ministry has, otherwise the Election Commission handles it.

P Chidambaram: How can you have President's rule when you have a government with an absolute majority there.

Dr Prannoy Roy: No..for security reasons. There is no question on that?

Barkha Dutt: Are you ruling out an early election?

P Chidambaram: I have no plans to ask for early elections because I know that's not in my hands. It's entirely in the hands of the Election Commission.

Dr Prannoy Roy: It is something I wish, Mamata wishes.

Barkha Dutt: Another reason that you and your ministry have been in the news and there is so much that comes under the Home Ministry is the census and the issue of caste in the census, Your ministry issued an elaborate statement suggesting a kind of ambivalence at best and, perhaps if you read between the lines, a kind of objection to it and suddenly the Prime Minister got up in Parliament and said caste would be included in the census.

P Chidambaram: He didn't say that. He said that he will place it before the cabinet.

Barkha Dutt: The cabinet was deeply divided on it. What explains the last minute change on this? Despite your reservation on the issue.

P Chidambaram: My statement was based upon my understanding of government policy at that time and based on the discussion with the Prime Minister. And I laid that out so that the Parliament and the people know the practical difficulties of canvassing caste in census. Please understand that the limited issue before me is should you canvas caste on census. The NSS does a sample survey. There are other surveys that are done. We have had any number of surveys.

Dr Prannoy Roy: They are sample not census.

P Chidambaram: The Kallialkar Commission in Tamil Nadu, the Chettanadan Commission, the Ambashankar Commission. Every state has had a backward class commission. So we are not on the larger question. The limited issue before me was should you and can you canvas caste on a census and I laid that out before the Parliament.

Barkha Dutt: You thought not.

P Chidambaram: No. I set out all the practical problems brought to my notice by the Registrar General of India and the census commissioner. I thought it was my duty to place all that before Parliament and the country, which I did. I said I understand the view of members. Infact if you recall, I said I hear you loud and clear and I will place all your views before the cabinet. That was the mandate I had that time. The Prime Minister can of course make a statement and he did make a statement. I believe that reassured most members that the matter will be placed before the cabinet.

Barkha Dutt: Well it's clearly happening now. You talk of the PM obviously being in a sense making his own decision and then get the cabinet to go along with him. But one year after the UPA, one of the perceptions and often we find you are at the center of many of these controversies, in fact other junior colleagues speak up and speak out in public. There was this recent issue with Jairam Ramesh. You spoke about Digvijay Singh and that issue being closed. But on the specific issue of Jairam Ramesh's argument that your ministry is alarmist and paranoid when it comes to China. You would say what?

P Chidambaram: But I think he has withdrawn those comments and surely we are not alarmist or paranoid. Home Secretary has explained what the role of the Home Ministry is. The Defense Minister has said what the role of his ministry is. There is no need for me to add anything to what they have said.

Barkha Dutt: That didn't annoy you that somebody went to China and made this big statement?

P Chidambaram: As I said..I or you talking about me or the Home Minister are two different things.

Barkha Dutt: Was the Home Minister annoyed? You wrote a letter to the PM.

P Chidambaram: No I only requested the PM for permission to issue a statement setting the record straight. That's all that was- A one sentence letter, which all of you blew out of proportion, adding your own.

Dr Prannoy Roy: You never trust the media...

P Chidambaram: I only said do I have your permission....may I have your permission to issue the statement to set the record straight.

Dr Prannoy Roy: In all seriousness, are you enjoying being the Home minister?

P Chidambaram: Some jobs Prannoy have to be done. This is one job that has to be done. It's been given to me by my leaders- the Prime Minister and the Congress President. I accepted it with humility. I do my job with humility. This is a tough job, a thankless job. At the end of the day as I said at the Parliament, you can't say I have delivered 8.5 per cent growth. At the end of the day you cannot say I have built 16000km of road. At the end of the day you cannot say that my foreign exchange reserve is 290 billion dollars. At the end of the day it still is some body count--Somewhere, somebody is killed, somebody is murdered, some Naxal bomb blast. So some jobs have to be done. It's fallen to me to do this job. I try to do it with the best of my ability. I am sure there are others who can do it better. Infact I know there are others who can do it better. But as long as I hold this job, I have to do my best.

Barkha Dutt: You were a reluctant Home Minister when you were appointed. Would you still call yourself that?

P Chidambaram: Well, reluctant in that context. I had another four months to complete my term as Finance Minister. I would have liked to complete five full years as Finance Minister. A distinction achieved in recent time only by Dr Manmohan Singh. And if I would have completed five years in government as Finance Minister, I presented five Budgets, no doubt... that would have been a line in my CV when I meet my maker.

Barkha Dutt: At the end of this day, when UPA-2 completed its first year, what is it that you wanted to do but couldn't? What do you count as an area of failure, if I could use the word?

P Chidambaram: When I took over, the perception was that this government is weak on security; the security of this country cannot be entrusted upon this government. We had an election in four months thereafter. It was a ticking bomb. If we had failed to deliver, failed to change that perception, we might have lost that election. Underline "might". I am not saying that one issue decides an election and I was certain in my mind that if there was another attack like Mumbai before the election, we would have certainly lost that election. We didn't have another attack. We seemed to have assured the people of this country that they are safe if Congress is in power. And until Pune, infact just before Pune, I made a speech. I said complacency is setting in. People are beginning to take the fact that there is no terror attack for granted. Please read my Intelligence Bureau lecture. We have got 18 months of one terror attack, 18 months of no communal conflict, situation in Northeast under control, Kashmir is moving, progressing; things are happening in Kashmir. Tourists are returning. I think what we as a government have achieved is assurance to people that Congress will ensure the security of this country. There will be setbacks, but I think this country is safer than what it was a year and a half or two years ago. And a year from today, two years from today, our capacity would have increased, our confidence would have increased and we would be more secure.

Dr Prannoy Roy: When you go to sleep at night, what's the last thing, your big fear?

P Chidambaram: I have no fear.

Barkha Dutt: Worry, regret?

P Chidambaram: I am sorry it sounds...

Barkha Dutt: Intellectually arrogant?
 
P Chidambaram: I fear nothing. My only fear is that we cannot become complacent. No country today, Prannoy, can afford to be complacent.
 
Dr Prannoy Roy: India can become very easily complacent.

P Chidambaram: We are pretty close to the epicenter of world terror, which is the Afghan-Pakistan area. If I was the Interior Minister of Australia, I would still be vigilant, but I could relax a bit. We are close to the epicenter of terror. I think the only other guy in the world who is closer to the epicenter is the Interior Minister of Pakistan.
 
Barkha Dutt: You will be meeting him soon.
 
P Chidambaram: Well I don't know. I think one of the courts turned down his appeal. I don't know what that would mean. Therefore, I have no fear but I constantly tell myself don't lower your guard. And don't let others lower their guard.
 
Barkha Dutt: Have you had any sense of personal disappointment in this last year?
 
P Chidambaram: As Home Minister?
 
Barkha Dutt: Yes

P Chidambaram: Many, many, many disappointments because we are not taking our decision as fast as we should, as we can. We are not implementing them with that single-minded determination that we should have. There is too much debate on issues- AFSPA, NCTC, NAT-GRID. I don't think a 20-hour debate adds anything more than a 3 hour debate. I think all issues can be thrashed out in 3-4 hours of concentrated focused attention. We tend to debate it for far too long. But may be because I am a lawyer, I am trained to address arguments in a limited timeframe. I don't mind debating an issue, but let's, as the Japanese do, set a starting time for the meeting and a closing time for the meeting. That's how they do it. Meeting will start at 8 and close at 10.

Dr Prannoy Roy: We forget the closing time?

Barkha Dutt: Your meetings are like that-- 3.55 to 4:02

P Chidambaram: Close the debate and get on the job. There is a lot to be done. I don't think we can be complacent, slow or lazy.

Dr Prannoy Roy & Barkha Dutt: Thank you very much for being so open and candid with us.
Story First Published: May 17, 2010 23:50 IST

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