Saturday, December 22, 2001, Chandigarh, India





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India recalls High Commissioner to Pakistan
Samjhauta Express, Lahore bus service to be terminated
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 21
Signalling toughening of its stand vis a vis Pakistan, India today recalled its High Commissioner to Islamabad and terminated the Delhi-Lahore bus service as well as the Samjhauta Express train running between the two countries for the past 25 years.

Muslim activists shout anti-Pakistan slogans during a demonstration near the Pakistan Embassy in New Delhi on Friday.
Muslim activists shout anti-Pakistan slogans during a demonstration near the Pakistan Embassy in New Delhi on Friday. — Reuters photo

The hardening of the Indian stand, coming when the SAARC summit is scheduled to take place in Kathmandu less than a fortnight from now, is clear in view of the fact that India had not recalled its High Commissioner to Islamabad even during the Kargil conflict.

Significantly, it is the third time in the past 50 years that India has recalled its High Commissioner from Islamabad, the previous two occasions being just before the 1965 and 1971 wars.

While Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad V.K. Nambiar is expected to return here in a day or two, the Samjhauta Express and the Lahore bus service will be terminated with effect from January 1, 2002, so as to enable citizens of the two countries who have travelled recently using these services to return to their homes.

The decisions were taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) which met today under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

A spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said at her regular briefing that these decisions had been taken because the government had not seen any attempts on the part of Pakistan to take action against terrorist outfits based in Pakistan — Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad — which were responsible for the December 13 attack on Parliament.

The spokesperson said in a statement here that Foreign Secretary Chokila Iyer had in a meeting with Pakistan High Commissioner here Ashraf Jehangir Qazi on December 14 had elaborated on some steps that were required and were also mandated by international law. The spokesperson said the above-mentioned decisions had been taken “in view of this complete lack of concern on the part of Pakistan and its continued promotion of cross-border terrorism.”

In a related significant development, the Prime Minister today briefed President K R Narayanan about his government’s decision to recall its High Commissioner from Islamabad. During a 30-minute meeting, Mr Vajpayee is understood to have explained to him the reasons behind taking such moves.

Meanwhile, the Opposition broadly agreed with the government’s decision to recall India’s High Commissioner to Islamabad, it said the Opposition should have been consulted before taking the decision. The BJP demanded more such steps against Pakistan’s support to cross-border terrorism.

Senior Congress leader Natwar Singh, who heads the party’s Foreign Affairs Department, said the Congress had already conveyed its broad support to the government in Parliament on the issue of tackling terrorism and it was for the government to decide the steps. Without directly referring to the recall of Indian High Commissioner, Congress spokesman Anand Sharma said there could not be any bipartisan approach in the fight against terrorism and it was for the government to make the moves.

The CPM said the government had “once again” not taken the Opposition into confidence before taking a major step like recalling the High Commissioner to Pakistan.

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Pakistan not to recall envoy

Islamabad, December 21
Pakistan tonight said it did not intend to withdraw its High Commissioner from New Delhi and regretted India’s decision to recall its envoy from Islamabad and terminate rail and bus service between the two countries.

“Pakistan does not intend to respond in kind. Indeed the Government of Pakistan feels that in the prevailing tense situation, it is all the more important to keep all channels open,” a Foreign Office statement said reacting to the Indian decision.

Regretting the decision to terminate transport links, the statement said, “This step will only serve to create hardship for common people desirous of travelling between the two countries”.

It rejected the Indian allegation of continued promotion of cross-border terrorism by Pakistan and reminded the Government of India that Pakistan had asked for credible evidence about any involvement of Pakistan-based groups/individuals for investigation and appropriate action by the government.

“Pakistan has also offered to participate in a joint inquiry with India to ascertain true motives and identities of perpetrators of the terrorist incident. Regrettably the Indian Government has consistently declined these proposals,” it said.

Pakistan would persevere in its policy of restraint and would continue to work for lowering of tensions with India,” the statement added. PTI

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