Atal Bihari Vajpayee (25 December 1924 – 16 August 2018) was an Indian politician and statesman who served three terms as the 10th Prime Minister of India, first for a term of 13 days in 1996, then for a period of 13 months from 1998 to 1999, followed by a full term from 1999 to 2004. He was educated at Victoria College (now Laxmibai College), Gwalior and DAV College, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh and was a Master Degree holder in Political Science. A renowned Hindi poet and a writer whose notable books include titles like Meri Ikyaavan Kavitaen, Kya Khoya Kya Paya, Kaidi Kaviraj Ki Kundalian, Sankalp-Kaal, Nayi Chunouti: Naya Avasar, Vajpayee was one of the co-founders and a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist volunteer organisation. He was honored with the ‘Padma Vibhushan’ in 1992 in recognition of his services to the nation and the ‘Bharat Ratna’, India’s highest civilian award, in 2015.
A speech delivered by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002 entitled ‘We Shall Triumph Against Terrorism’ in which he had spoken of the inspiring vision of Sri Aurobindo has been published in the website of Overman Foundation.
With warm regards,
We Shall Triumph Against Terrorism
Atal Behari Vajpayee
My dear fellow countrymen, joyous new year greetings to all of you.
To our brave jawans, security forces, and policemen guarding our borders and vital installations; to our hard-working kisans (farmers) who have ensured our food security; to our workers and managers who, with their sweat and toil, are making India an economic power; to our talented software professionals who have burnished India’s image abroad; to our children and youth, who are the future of our nation; indeed, to every Indian who in his or her own way is contributing to nation-building, I wish happiness and prosperity in the New Year.
I also send my felicitations to all Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs), who, despite the distance in space and time that separates them from us, have maintained unbreakable social, cultural, spiritual, and emotional ties with India.
We leave an eventful year behind us, a year of many trials and tribulations—amongst them the earthquake in Gujarat at the beginning of the year and the terrorist attack on our Parliament at the end of the year.
We faced all of them with courage and self-confidence. As we begin our journey in 2002, it is time for all of us together to resolve that we shall grow further in fortitude; that our belief in ourselves shall be further steeled to take on even stiffer challenges that may confront us in the new year.
Today, let us pledge that our motherland shall emerge stronger—in national security, which is of supreme importance, and in development that betters the life of those of our brethren who continue to be victims of poverty and neglect.
It is said that time’s ways are inscrutable. This may be true in the life of individuals, not in a nation’s life. True, we cannot predict what may happen to our individual destinies. But, in my mind, there is no uncertainty whatsoever about India’s destiny.
India is marching towards a bright future. We have our share of problems. But these cannot hide the brightness on the horizon. It will be a future free of poverty and all other vestiges of underdevelopment.
Indeed, the level of poverty is coming down; and the day is not far when every region, every community, and every citizen in our country shall enjoy the fruits of India’s prosperity and progress.
If we want, and if we act unitedly to get what we want, then this energizing goal can be achieved within the span of a generation.
But the future I see is not only one of a prosperous India, free of fear and free of want. In recent years, the world has come to look at India with renewed respect, recognizing a strong and prosperous global power in the making.
I have no doubt that India in the foreseeable future will begin to play a decisive role in global affairs, not to advance any partisan agenda at the expense of others but to protect and promote mankind’s most cherished universal ideals.
It is also a future when the fabled richness of India’s culture, arts, intellectual exploration, and spiritual pursuit will begin to show its full radiance, bringing much succour to the troubled spirit of the modern man.
Is this a dream? Yes. Is it an impossible dream? No, it is not.
Nations achieve greatness when their people learn to dream lofty dreams and to strive hard—and make sacrifices when necessary—to realize those dreams, without getting disheartened by the difficulties along the way and without ever letting their faith in their nation’s destiny falter.
I am reminded here of the inspiring vision of Maharshi Aurobindo, which he set out in his historic radio broadcast for August 15, 1947:
“I have always held and said that India was arising, not to serve her own material interests only, to achieve expansion, greatness, power, and prosperity,—though these too she must not neglect,—and certainly not like others to acquire domination of other peoples, but to live also for god and the world as a helper and leader of the whole human race.”
This, I believe, is the quintessence of India’s work, now and in the future. Different leaders of modern India have presented the same vision in different words.
In the five and a half decades since independence, we have made definite progress in realizing a part of this vision, although there is a need to introspect on why our achievement has not been greater, faster, and more egalitarian.
But let us not get bogged down in the issues and debates of yesterday. Now we must hasten our march forward, correcting the mistakes of the past but always keeping our eyes fixed firmly on where we want India to be in the future.
It often happens that the road to the future is rendered difficult by roadblocks placed by the past. One such roadblock for us, indeed the biggest, is Pakistan’s consistent and continuing anti-India policy, beginning with its refusal to accept the constitutionally validated and democratically endorsed accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India.
For a long time, the rulers in Islamabad relied on military confrontation, as exemplified by the wars they waged in 1948, 1965, and 1971, to settle this issue in their favour. After failing abjectly in their endeavour, the anti-India forces in Pakistan decided to foment terrorism and religious extremism as the principal means to instigate separatism in our country.
I must say that they are nursing a dangerous delusion. What they could not achieve through open military aggression, they never will achieve through cross-border terrorism.
They failed miserably in their evil designs in Punjab. Terrorism bled Punjab; but, in the end, it fled Punjab. It could not dent Hindu-Sikh unity. Similarly, the terrorists and their mentors are doomed to fail in Jammu & Kashmir, too.
However, the very certainty of failure is driving them, in desperation, to embrace a more dangerous agenda. The terrorist attack on our Parliament on December 13 has shown beyond a shadow of doubt that the anti-India forces in Pakistan are prepared to wreak any havoc on our soil.
It was an attack on our sovereignty, on our national self-respect, and it was a challenge to our democratic system.
Although India has been a victim of cross-border terrorism for nearly the past two decades and has lost tens of thousands of innocent men and women and security forces, the outrage of December 13 has breached the limit of the nation’s endurance.
That the terrorists who stormed the precincts of Parliament failed in their core objective, thanks to the exemplary alertness and bravery of our security forces, some of whom laid down their lives in the call of their duty, cannot diminish the diabolical nature of the conspiracy hatched by their mentors across the border.
It is useful to presume that more such terrorist strikes can take place. The only way to defend ourselves against such attacks is by forcing Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism. And this precisely is the objective we have set ourselves in our current multi-pronged strategy.
The many political and diplomatic steps we have taken after December 13 are a part of this strategy. As I have said earlier, India does not want war. India has never been an aggressor in her long history.
But we have a sovereign right to defend ourselves against cross-border terrorism, which is a proxy war that is already thrust on us. Pakistan will be solely responsible for the consequences of encouraging terrorism against India and, when expedient, turning a blind-eye to terrorist groups with trans-national linkages operating from its soil.
Today, I also wish to share a thought with the people of Pakistan and, indeed, with all the right-thinking persons in its ruling establishment.
It is unfortunate that anti-India forces in Pakistan have been allowed to play with fire, apparently with no thought given to what this fire can do to Pakistan itself.
I have heard and read many perceptive Pakistanis express serious concern over their government’s appeasement of terrorism fuelled by religious extremism.
They have voiced alarm over how Pakistan’s social fabric and its institutions have been grievously affected by its government’s policy of creating and systematically promoting the Taliban, ostensibly to gain ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan and a ‘force multiplier’ for its anti-India campaign in Jammu & Kashmir.
The fate of the first game plan has already been sealed. The fate of the second will be no different.
Taliban and Al Qaeda are not merely the names of organizations. They stand for an aberrant mental outlook and a highly regressive socio-political agenda, which rejects the ideals of pluralism, secularism, freedom, and democracy and has no respect even for national boundaries.
For the pursuit of its goal to establish global hegemony, it considers the use of terrorism domestically as well as its aggressive export to countries near and far entirely legitimate.
Like you, I too often wonder: Why do some people choose the path of terrorism? Why do they kill, and are ready to be killed? How are they able to create a religious frenzy in support of terrorism, when no religion sanctions terrorism?
One can understand if some persons, dissatisfied with the prevailing state of affairs or angered by a sense of injustice or deprivation, want to establish a different social order that they consider is more just and would benefit more people.
There is nothing wrong with such striving. Indeed, humanity has progressed through the struggles of such idealists.
But where the path of the terrorist diverges sharply from that of the idealist and the revolutionary is in the choice of the means he employs. Because of his murderous ways, his intolerance, and his extremism, he expels himself from the pale of humanity and descends to barbarism. To allow such barbarians to succeed even partially, even in a single corner of the world, is to invite danger for the whole civilized humanity.
Which is why India stood firmly behind the international coalition’s support to the United States’ war on terror in Afghanistan following the horrendous terrorist attacks of September 11 in New York and Washington.
The leadership of Pakistan took a commendable decision to join the international coalition against terrorism in Afghanistan, although it meant a drastic U-turn in their policy of support to the Taliban regime.
But what was their real intention? If it was the same as that of the international community—namely, to root out terrorism and extremism—then I extend my hand of alliance to them.
I wish to tell them: “Shed your anti-India mentality and take effective steps to stop cross-border terrorism, and you will find India willing to walk more than half the distance to work closely with Pakistan to resolve, through dialogue, any issue, including the contentious issue of Jammu & Kashmir.”
In my musings from Kumarakom last year, I had affirmed:
“In our search for a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem, both in its external and internal dimensions, we shall not traverse solely on the beaten track of the past. Rather, we shall be bold and innovative designers of a future architecture of peace and prosperity for the entire South Asian region.”
I continue to remain wedded to this commitment. My bus journey to Lahore earlier in February 1999, my invitation to President Pervez Musharraf to come to Agra in July for summit talks, and our oft-extended ‘ceasefire’ in Jammu & Kashmir are a testimony to India’s sincere, bold, and innovative search for peace.
This search continued even after the betrayal in Kargil. Our efforts will be further intensified, if Pakistan demonstrates its matching sincerity to have peace with India.
Together, let us leave the past of futile hostilities behind us and embrace a future free of tension and full of mutually beneficial possibilities. The common enemy that both our countries face is poverty, illiteracy, disease, and unemployment. Terrorism and extremism cannot solve any of these problems. They can only further delay their solution.
Therefore, let us join hands to fight this enemy and, along with other countries in South Asia, make our region a land of peace, plenty, and all-round progress. This is the challenge of the new year and of the new century. Let us accept it in a spirit of cooperation.
However, if the intention of Pakistan’s leadership is to continue to promote, or condone, cross-border terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir as a matter of state policy, while maintaining that they are one with the world in rooting out terrorism in Afghanistan, then the international community will judge this position to be opportunistic. It will conclude that Pakistan, far from being a part of the solution, will remain a part of the problem itself.
It is for Pakistan to make the right choice. After what happened on December 13, we have made certain legitimate demands of [on] the government of Pakistan. Its sincerity to fight terrorism will be determined by its positive response to these demands.
We also hope that our friends in the international community will bring requisite pressure on Pakistan to give up its double standards on terrorism.
Dear fellow countrymen, the situation we are facing is unprecedented. I would like you to be prepared for any eventuality. I would also like you to realize that the battle against terrorism will necessarily be a long one. One should neither expect a quick and painless victory nor despair if more terrorist strikes take place.
Today, my heart goes out to our jawans, security forces and police personnel who are doing their duty in difficult conditions, so that all of us can sleep soundly and go about our normal lives.
But let us also recognize that, in some ways, every citizen is a soldier in this war against terrorism. Like them, let us be disciplined and ever vigilant.
Like them, let us also be prepared to make sacrifices—sacrifice of our leisure, sacrifice of our comforts, sacrifice of our riches, and, if necessary, sacrifice of our lives.
I am sure that all of us will work harder than before to keep our economy and our civic services fighting-fit. I know that, as during the previous wars, our citizens will gladly bear hardships if the government has to take certain temporary measures to support our effort.
Our people have shown the fist of unity at the time of every crisis in the past. I am confident that you will do it again, and not allow any other issue to come between us and our goal.
And that goal is India’s victory—a decisive victory—in our supremely just struggle. We shall triumph against terrorism—to defend India, to defend humanity. Let this be every Indian’s New Year resolve. May the Almighty give us strength to redeem this resolve.