Monday, December 31, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Oppn backs govt steps
No proof of Pak action against terrorists
Tribune News Service

Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee with Union Home Minister L. K. Advani
Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee with Union Home Minister L. K. Advani during an all-party meeting at Prime Minister's residence in New Delhi on Sunday. — PTI photo

New Delhi, December 30
The major Opposition parties while coming out in full support of the measures taken by the Government against Pakistan following the December 13 terrorist strike on Parliament today suggested that the External Affairs Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh should meet his Pakistani counterpart Abdul Sattar on the sidelines of the SAARC summit at Kathmandu.

Opposition party leaders attending the all-party meeting called by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee to discuss the present status of the Indo-Pak ties and the steps being initiated by India after the attack also sought maximum scope for diplomatic steps to force Islamabad to rein in terrorist outfits as no one wanted a war.

The refrain at the meeting was that "maximum scope" should be given to the use of diplomatic measures against Islamabad which had not given enough evidence so far to prove that it was really acting against terrorist groups.

As part of this diplomatic effort the Opposition parties also suggested that the SAARC summit would give India the opportunity to raise the issue forcefully with Pakistan and Mr Jaswant Singh could do that while meeting Mr Sattar.

Briefing reporters after a two-hour meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan said the meeting felt that it was very difficult to believe that the steps Islamabad said it had taken against terrorists and their outfits operating on its soil.

A major highlight of the meeting was the decision by the government to send high-level delegations of members of the government as also political parties to key world capitals to mobilise opinion in favour of India in its fight against Pakistan-backed cross-border terrorism. All Opposition parties were in favour of this step as they felt it would further boost the diplomatic steps being undertaken by the government.

Mr Mahajan said the delegations would start leaving by the second half of January and some of them would be led by senior Opposition leaders.

Leader of the Opposition in a Lok Sabha Sonia Gandhi and senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh, CPM General Secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet, CPI veteran A.B. Bardhan, Mr Ajay Chakravarty (CPI), Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, Mr P.H. Pandian (AIADMK), Mr P.A. Sangma (NCP), Mr Ramgopal Yadav (SP), Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (RJD) and Mr Sushil Indora (INLD) participated at the meeting.

Union Minister L.K. Advani, Mr Jaswant Singh and Mr Yashwant Sinha and National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra represented the government.

All leaders approved of the action taken by the government so far and were appreciative of the future diplomatic strategy unveiled by Mr Jaswant Singh at the meeting, Mr Mahajan said.

“The approach of every leader at today’s meeting was every cooperative and highly constructive. It was an excellent show of Indian unity whenever the integrity is under threat,” he said.

The meeting saw Mr Jaswant Singh emphasising that India’s military deployment on the borders was “purely defensive in nature”.

Mr Mahajan quoted him as saying that “one must understand that we are not a party which is aggressive and we are a party which is aggrieved before the international community”.

Asserting that the military deployment by India was necessitated because there was deployment from Pakistan, Mr Mahajan said Indian military deployment was “200 percent defensive”.

He said no one from the government or the Opposition raised the issue of military initiative.

Insisting that no one in the Government or in the opposition was keen on a war, he said no sane person would support a war.

Asked whether the Opposition leaders sought any information on the military preparedness or whether the government briefed them on the issue, Mr Mahajan said the Opposition leaders told the Prime Minister that they did not want any information about the deployment.

“It is for the government to take a decision at the appropriate time”, the Opposition told the government, adding that “if the war is thrust on us, we should face it unitedly”, Mr Mahajan said.Back


No talks with Pak at summit: PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 30
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today ruled out any talks with Pakistan during the SAARC summit in Kathmandu next week, citing conventions of the seven-member grouping which did not provide for any discussion on bilateral issues.

Mr Vajpayee said he would be going to the summit but the discussion at SAARC would be on terrorism and there would be no bilateral talks with Pakistan.


Pervez to travel via China

Islamabad, December 30
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf will fly to Nepal via China for a summit of South Asian leaders as a result of India’s ban on using its airspace, officials said today.

“The President will probably leave here on January 3 for China from where he will proceed to Nepal the same day,” a senior government official said. AFPBack


Chokila, Haq avoid interaction

Kathmandu, December 30
Foreign Secretary Chokila Iyer and her Pakistani counterpart Inamul Haq avoided interaction, making evident the chill in Indo-Pak relations, at the first session of the standing committee meeting of Foreign Secretaries of SAARC nations here this evening.

However, Nepalese Foreign Ministry spokesman Pushkar Raj Bahadur told newspersons after the first day’s deliberations that the mood between the delegates of India and Pakistan was good.

Asked specifically whether the two Foreign Secretaries met separately, he replied in the negative, but expressed hope that they might get a chance to interact in the coming two days as “both are good friends”. At the meeting, Ms Iyer was seated away from Mr Haq and both of them refrained from any discussion other than SAARC issues.

The 27th session of the standing committee started five hours behind schedule as Ms Iyer could not reach here yesterday because her flight was cancelled due to heavy fog. She arrived this afternoon and rushed to the conference soon.

SAARC Secretary-General Nihal Rodrigo presented the report about the activities of the seven-member countries at the meeting. The committee also adopted a provisional agenda, which included an action plan for poverty alleviation, expansion of South Asian Free Trade Agreement, issues related to the World Trade Organisation and several other programmes.

India had yesterday insisted that there would be no bilateral dialogue with Pakistan either at the highest level or at the Foreign Ministers’ level at the summit until Islamabad “creates a conducive climate by acting resolutely and meaningfully against terrorists”.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf will stay in the same hotel here when they come to participate in the summit from January 4 but a formal meeting between the two appears unlikely. UNIBack

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