Friday, December 21, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

PM to attend SAARC summit
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 20
Without deflecting from the new wave of Indo-Pak tension following the December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament House, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is determined to attend next month’s SAARC summit in Kathmandu.

He has sought to put at rest doubts and speculation in the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal about his participation in the January 4-6 SAARC summit following the machinations of Pakistan-based terrorists to create chaos by striking at the citadel of democracy in the national Capital.

The Charter of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) mandates that the summit cannot take place in the absence of even one head of state or government. Kathmandu had expressed concern about the much-postponed SAARC summit being a non-starter again because of the fresh bout of tension between India and Pakistan.

Authoritative sources in the government emphasised that Mr Vajpayee had at no point even remotely considered keeping away from the SAARC summit barring the imponderables even as the hype of an impending Indo-Pak conflict is dying down.

The presence of the self-appointed Pakistan President, General Pervez Musharraf, at the SAARC summit is not something that can be wished away. It is also not a question of shying away from General Musharraf if he and Mr Vajpayee come face to face. At the same time the Prime Minister sees no useful purpose being served in a Vajpayee-Musharraf interface as Islamabad continues to encourage cross-border terrorism.

The December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament has queered the pitch for resuming the Indo-Pak dialogue. In a pre-emptive move and to avoid further embarrassment, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar told the media in Islamabad that they were not going to seek a meeting between General Musharraf and Mr Vajpayee on the sidelines of the SAARC summit.

Mr Vajpayee’s visit to Kathmandu at this juncture assumes greater significance as virtually half the members of the fledgling SAARC grouping are facing the menace of terrorism.

New Delhi believes that with the closing of ranks globally to firmly tackle the problem of international terrorism, SAARC can play a significant role in containing this scourge especially in the countries afflicted by these inimical elements. This is an issue is of vital importance for development as the dark forces of terrorism have shifted their base from West Asia to the Pakistan-Afghanistan region.

Sources said India which had faced terrorism for nearly two decades was capable of dealing with incidents like the December 13 carnage on its own. New Delhi will strive in activating the SAARC forum for coordinated and concerted action against terrorism.

Impartial observers here insist that India should also pursue “pro-active diplomacy in South Asia” to tackle the deleterious impact of terrorism. This is particularly so as the international community is increasingly realising Pakistan’s involvement in aiding and abetting terrorism. Let us not forget that India, Sri Lanka and Nepal are facing the problem of terrorism. Recently, New Delhi offered its assistance to Kathmandu in dealing with the violence perpetrated by the Maoists in that country.”Back

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