Interviewer: Mr. Bhutto, talking to the press the other night you said, “Indian must trust us.” Now why should Mrs. Gandhi trust a man like yourself, who so often preached a thousand year’s war against India?
President: But finally it will have to boil down to a question of trust, whether it is me, or anyone else; and today I happen to be the elected President of Pakistan, and she’ll have to meet with an elected leader. And I represent the wishes and feelings of the people of Pakistan.
The whole world knows that Indo-Pakistan problems have persisted for 25 years, since we became independent and there will have to be mutual trust and confidence. On our part we are prepared to give that trust and India will also have to take the same position if they want a final settlement. Between nations, once trust is broken, really trust has to be repaired whether it is India, Pakistan, France, Germany or any other nation. If you really want to bury the hatchet, then we will have to trust one another.
Interviewer: But isn’t it that you have been an apostle of confrontation with India? How are you really going to persuade Mrs. Gandhi that you have changed your spots?
President: No. I haven’t persuaded Mrs. Gandhi. The events and circumstance persuaded her as well as, and I do not apologize for my policy o confrontation. It was the right policy at that time when I was in Government, when I was Foreign Minister. Circumstances were such. In 1962 Kashmir was within our grasp – we could have merely walked in and at that time national interest required a policy of confrontation, but Azad Kashmir did not pursue it. And right up to 1965, we could have settled the problems militarily as today India has indeed settled it militarily. Has she not?
By taking East Pakistan by military force she has brought about a situation where now the Indian emissary who has come to Pakistan is talking the language o flowers and naturally in the position of a victor. In springtime especially, why not throw a bouquet of flowers on the defeated?
So the point is that when the situation called for a policy of confrontation, I pursued it. Now there is this situation. On account of a number of factors, and due to the fault of previous governments and leaders – they were not leaders, they were usurpers – they bungled up everything and they’ve given me pieces, fragmented pieces, small pieces, and I have to put them together. So I have to take an approach which commensurate with the realities.
Interviewer: You talk about Mr. Dhar, India’s emissary here, that in his preliminary negotiations, using flowery language, tossing a bouquet towards you. Do you think at all as some of the people I spoke to here do, that in the long term India is determined on the end of Pakistan as an independent nation?
President: That has been India’s past record for the last 25 years. But I would not like to say that now because I would like to trust India. As much as India should take the risk of trusting us, I’d like to take the risk o trusting Indian leaders. And perhaps it would be a long time before they have really swallowed and devoured and digested East Pakistan. So let us hope that we can have a generation of peace.
Interviewer: Obviously your first priority must be to get your prisoners of war home again. You said that. You made that very plain. But how are you going to persuade Mrs. Gandhi that once they’re home again they’re not going to push you towards confrontation once more–perhaps even to a war of revenge?
President: No, I don’t think that any one can push me around in hurry, and especially our prisoners of war. They are not an articulate political force as such. They might fan out. They don’t need to fan out. There are enough people who are jingoistic as it is but we can settle the sentiments if we make progress and I don’t want Pakistan to get the title of a ravenchist state.
Interviewer: You did right after the war, as soon as you took office, you did talk rather in terms of avenging the humiliation. You don’t really think that pressures here in Pakistan will push you towards a confrontation again?
President: Not revenge in that sense – not revenge in the sense of going to war again. Revenge, in the sense of moral rehabilitation and to let the world know that we are not inherently a people who you can lose and have lost, that we’re equals in the subcontinent even in our reduced state. We have to show to the world and show to India by economic developments, by making grand new experiments in administration, in making democracy work and in a host of other ways to show that we’re still equals in the subcontinent.
Interviewer: Mrs. Gandhi seems to want to use her strong bargaining position to make the new ceasefire line in Kashmir an international frontier. Now is this something that could ever be acceptable to the people of Pakistan, let alone the people of Azad Kashmir?
President: But the people of Kashmir come first because it is their future and their faith, which is involved. If the people of Kashmir have given up the notion that they don’t have the stamina and grit to achieve their rights, the whole world put together can not help them to achieve their rights. Primarily, they have to be in the forefront and we have been in the forefront for 25 years. Perhaps that’s why the problem has not been resolved till now. So we cannot abandon a right, which belongs to them. As I said to you the other night, we have not conferred it, we cannot take it back. And I think it is really shooting the gun to go straight to Kashmir.
There are so many fundamental matters to be tackled and resolved and I India has taken that position for 25 years, let us go step-by-step and then finally come up with the top of the ladder called Kashmir. Why should India now reverse that historical position propounded by no less a person than Pandit Nehru, the father of the present Prime Minister. I know I have heard that the present Prime Minister says that her father was a saint and not a politician but she does great injustice to her father. He was an outstanding politician. Perhaps, with all due respect, a greater politician than the present incumbent.
Interviewer: How do you think you’re going to get on with Mrs. Gandhi?
President: I hope to get on well and I have respect for her. I never liked it when Yahya called her “That woman”. She is an elected leader of a big country. We respect a leader of people. We would give her all the respect and all the consideration that is due to a leader of the country and a successful Prime Minister. So we will meet her with reverence and respect but of course a sense of equality because although East Pakistan has been severed away from Pakistan, we still believe in the concept of sovereign equality of states. And we’re not a mosquito on the map of the subcontinent. Still we are 60,000,000 people and with a good history, with a good account of ourselves. And I have lifted the morale of the people again not by fanning hatred – I haven’t but by going in the direction of reform and revolution. So I’m looking forward to our encounter, to our meeting and I hope it will be a productive dialogue.
Interviewer: You don’t think you’re placing too much weight on this face-to-face encounter you want? You temperaments are surely very different.
President: Yes, but this is also necessary. We must have this fact-to-face encounter and as I told you the other night it’s not that we don’t respect the bureaucracy, they have their role to play but our past experience has shown that they don’t break the Gordian Knot.
Interviewer: Is it necessary to meet face to face?
President: Very necessary.
Interviewer: You’ve taken a pretty strong line on these war crimes trials that Sheikh Mujib proposes to you and if they’re held they’ll muck every thing up. Does that really mean that if anybody is tried for war crimes in Dacca it is going to be a bit impossible to come to any settlement here on the subcontinent?
President: Well, I think objectively speaking things will become extremely difficult and I don’t think I’ve used any strong words or made any strong statement. A person in weak position cannot make strong statements and strong statements have to be followed up. You become the prisoner of your own words. I’m not in a position today to make strong statements. I don’t think I’ve made a strong statement. I think I’ve not closed the windows for political settlement, political compromise but if the trials are held, it would arouse the worst of feelings and it would make my task almost impossible.
Interviewer: Clearly, as well as wanting to be sure that you’re genuine in your search for peace, Mrs. Gandhi is going to want to assure herself that you’re going to remain President of Pakistan. If it’s not a rude question, just how secure is you position?
President: Well, my position as President of Pakistan does not depend on Mrs. Gandhi’s goodwill. As much as my presence in the political scene did not depend on any one’s goodwill, because you know there was a time when quite a number of the great powers and the super-duper powers were determined to see that I didn‘t get back into to the political arena or the political corridors of power of Pakistan. And I think without disrespect to any other leader of Asia, Africa and Latin America, I’m sort of an exception who has resisted and overcome the object of the great powers to come back into the political arena. So my being the President of Pakistan, in my opinion, is not dependent on Mrs. Gandhi or on any of the great powers. It is dependent on the man in the street, the man in rags.
Interviewer: Some of your opponents of course would say that your support is as regional as Sheikh Mujib’s support was in East Pakistan?
President: I don’t think that is correct. My party is strong in all the provinces. They talk about the majority of other parties in the two smaller provinces but really they have a majority of one or one and a half; and they keep on talking about their majority but we’re quite strong every where and, in any case, we represent over 800 percent of the people in terms of a parliamentary majority. In terms of the people’s majority, I think we are stronger and I’m quite happy and content and grateful to the people throughout Pakistan for their support.
Interviewer: There are suggestions, of course, that with all the powers you have under your new interim constitution you’re something of a dictator-not in the sense that your predecessors were but nevertheless you are all-powerful?
President: No, once you have constitutional rule you can’t take that position because I think the same could be said for President De Gaulle, the same could be said for the Prime Minister of Britain, the same can be said for the President of the United States of America, the same could be said for the Prime Minister of India not only the present one but even her predecessors. So the question is that when constitutionally, when the people give you a certain quantum of power that is not the abusive power, that’s not wrong power. Wrong power comes when you destroy the people’s rights and the people’s confidence so that the point is in your country to call it stability and good government. Now why don’t you want to call it good government in India and Pakistan?
Interviewer: people are very ready, when they come upon you and write about you, they call you brilliant and versatile and able and they don’t seem so ready to think of you as reliable, steady and dependable. Have you any comment on that?
President: The people you’ve met must be the most undependable people that inhabit the earth because those people they’ve never had any principles, they’ve never supported people’s causes, they’ve never stood by the people. I am talking about the politicians if you have met them, they have been unscrupulous, they have profited by the absence of scruples and when they find a person who is dedicated to principles but he is flexible-you know the Indians say that I am a man of contradictions; it is an ironical thing for the Indians to say that. But what is the subcontinent but contradictions/ And if I’m a product of the subcontinent’s realities, it is not a reflection on me, it is a reflection on the realities of the subcontinent.
Interviewer: So you see yourself as pragmatic rather than devious?
President: But pragmatic with idealism and with set principles.
Interviewer: As these preliminary talks with India get under way here, what earthly reason is there why any peace settlement that emerges should be any more lasting than those that have gone with the War?
President: Well, fundamental realities have changed and we are in a qualitatively new situation.
Interviewer: You don’t fell that there is any more reason why they should succeed than that?
President: That’s a very big reason.
Interviewer: It’s only a matter of time you’ve made claim before you recognize Bangladesh. What sort of country is what remains of Pakistan going to be?
President: Pakistan still maintains its ideological complexion because the Lahore resolution of 1940 talked of two states, of two Moslem states. That was later on amended to make one state and the British left one state. So you can argue till the cows come home whether it was one or two states but now we’re one state and we can pick up that part of the argument and why not. I don’t see anything immoral in that although the Indians have said that the two-nation theory has collapsed. How has the two-nation theory collapsed? By the emergence of three nations? Two-nation theory would have collapsed if there had emerged one nation; because India says there is one nation-we said there were two. If at that time we had said there are three, the Indians would have said, “My God, that is out of the question, we might consider two, we can’t consider three.” So the two-nation theory does not collapse by the creation of a third nation. It would have collapsed if they’d all become one nation. Now if India thinks that it has collapsed so in order to reabsorb both East Pakistan and West Pakistan, that’s another matter. But that’s not the reality today. So we have an ideological basis and we will also place emphasis on territorial prosperity.
Interviewer: You were talking about a non-activist low-profile foreign policy. But what sort of role do you see for Pakistan to play on the subcontinent? What kind of country is it going to be in relation to others here?
President: Well, you see our muscle will, our foreign muscle will be judged by our internal muscle and for the time being I am concentrating on really creating the internal muscle. We have great potential. I think my country can be come a kind of West Germany of Europe in Asia and once I unleash all the forces, we bring back our manpower into play in development projects, electrification, rural health centers. I have great faith in the people of Pakistan and I’m banking every thing on their strength, on their resurgence, on their resuscitation. And you will see, if I get these four years or five years which is my constitutional right, I’m determined to change the face of Pakistan; make it really into a part of Asia that the moment you enter Pakistan you would say. “My God, we entered a country which is really pulsating, vibrant and active and vigorous.”
Interviewer: Will you have to change the nature of the people?
President: That is inevitable. I think they’re ready for it. They have been given the right direction.
Interviewer: Are they ready for peace?
President: They’re ready for peace but they’re ready to vindicate their honor and that can be vindicated without going to arms, without going to war. Germany has vindicated her honor without going to war.
Interviewer: And so will you?
President: I’ve got to do that.
Interviewer: Mr. President, thank you very much.