Sunday, February 20, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak offers olive branch
Return territory first: PM

ISLAMABAD, Feb 19 (Reuters) — Pakistan today proposed to India a relaunch of the derailed peace process and urged New Delhi to implement commitments made to Islamabad a year ago.

Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, in an interview with Reuters TV on the eve of the first anniversary of the Lahore summit, said Pakistani military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf’s government would join the process “honestly and sincerely”.

Gen Musharraf today said the country’s armed forces were fully prepared to effectively counter any external aggression.

“We are fully alive to the threats being hurled from across the border and are vigilant and capable of foiling any attempt at adventurism by the adversary”, he said.

PATNA (UNI):Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Saturday ruled out a dialogue with Pakistan till it returned occupied Kashmir and called upon extremist groups in the country to eschew violence in the larger interest of the nation.

Addressing a series of election meetings in Bihar, Mr Vajpayee categorically said any negotiation with Pakistan was possible only if it returned the occupied territory.

“Pakistan betrayed India’s faith when it infiltrated the Kargil heights soon after my bus trip to Lahore”, he said.

“We have categorically said no to a dialogue on any issue other than the land it (Pakistan) occupied in Kashmir... We want to tell the world that New Delhi will not rest till Islamabad vacates the occupied terriroty”, he told a well-attended election rally at Darbhanga.

“We gave a befitting reply to Islamabad’s misadventure and drove out Pakistani intruders from Kargil with full vigour”, he said, adding the victory had antagonised Pakistan which was “now showing its anger”.

The Prime Minister discounted the possibility of differences among NDA constituents over the choice of Bihar Chief Minister in the event of the alliance coming to power and promised “an effective coalition regime and an able Chief Minister” to the state.

“I think there will be no difficulty in electing the Chief Minister who promises to be most effective. Even if differences surface, we will sort these out,” Mr Vajpayee said, slamming the Rabri Devi government for its confrontationist approach towards the Centre.

Addressing election rallies at Saharsa, Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur in Bihar on the last leg of his election tour, the Prime Minister blasted the Rabri Devi government for its alleged failures and promised an honest NDA regime to the people of the state.

Mr Vajpayee’s statement on the issue of chief ministership came barely a day after Defence Minister and Samata Party leader George Fernandes said that the question on who should occupy the state’s top executive post was wide open.

Launching a broadside against the RJD government in the state, Mr Vajpayee charged it with being steeped in corruption and failing to maintain law and order leading to flight of entrepreneurs to other states under threat of criminals and extortionists.

The Prime Minister said the spiralling Naxalite violence reflected involvement of foreign elements as extremism could not have assumed such ominous proportions without their active connivance.

He, however, did not mention who these foreign elements were.

Addressing an election meeting at Muzaffarpur, Mr Vajpayee said his government was committed to giving 33 per cent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

“We will see to it that the NDA ministry in Bihar gives an administration that ensures safety and respect to women whom we want to effectively take part in governance,” he said.aAt Saharsa, the Prime Minister said his government would take up the issue of recurrent floods in north Bihar with Nepal to formalise a strategy for flood control in the region.


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