Sunday, January 6, 2002, Chandigarh, India 

National Capital Region--Delhi


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Mend your ways, Vajpayee tells Pervez
Calls for action, refuses to be taken in by handshake
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf (back) walks past Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee during the SAARC summit in Kathmandu on Saturday.
— Reuters photo

Kathmandu, January 5
Pakistan’s fresh brinkmanship of offering its genuine hand of friendship to India rebounded embarrassingly, with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee asking President Pervez Musharraf to extend the gesture by eliminating terrorism operating from that country’s soil perpetrating “mindless violence in India.”

General Musharraf’s theatrics at the inauguration of the much-postponed Eleventh SAARC Summit here today proved to be highly uncomfortable for Pakistan as Mr Vajpayee categorically ruled out Indo-Pak dialogue till the neighbour cleaned up terrorism and stopped aiding and abetting such immoral activity.

The Pakistan President, who had a spring in his stride when he walked to the podium to address the SAARC conclave, turned ashen faced when Mr Vajpayee responded in a measured but unambiguous manner that Indo-Pak relations had reached a dead end if Islamabad did not mend its ways and contain the scourge of terrorism.

Mr Vajpayee could not have let General Musharraf’s duplicity of “let us together commence the journey of peace and progress in South Asia” go unchallenged as that would have sent wrong signals back home and to the assembled Heads of State and Government of the regional grouping.

The Prime Minister’s direct and forthright response stunned the Pakistan camp and left them immobilised momentarily. They had not bargained that Mr Vajpayee would tell Pakistan politely but firmly to put its house in order and that the time for free lunches, initiatives and unilateral concessions are over till Pakistan acts firmly against terrorists and terrorists camps in that country.

Mr Vajpayee maintained he could not betray the expectations of the people especially after the December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament House in New Delhi.

In his response, Mr Vajpayee said, “I am glad that President Musharraf extended a hand of friendship to me. I have shaken his hand in your presence. Now President Musharraf must follow this gesture by not permitting any activity in Pakistan or any territory it controls today which enables terrorists to perpetrate mindless violence in India. “I say this because of my past experience. I went to Lahore with a hand of friendship. We were rewarded by aggression in Kargil and the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft from Kathmandu. I invited President Musharraf to Agra. We were rewarded with a terrorist attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and last month on Parliament House of India.

“But we would be betraying the expectations of our peoples if we did not chart out a course towards satisfying the unfulfilled promises of our common South Asian destiny.” India has stated time and again that though its doors are open for talks, terrorism and dialogue could not go hand in hand. New Delhi had also decided that it would not have any bilaterals with Pakistan and had specially come to Nepal to participate in the SAARC summit in keeping with its multilateralism.

In this context, General Musharraf had clearly barked up the wrong tree. It was apparent that Pakistan would try another PR exercise as evidenced in Agra and elsewhere but had failed to gauge the mood of the Indian leadership despite the prevailing tension between the two countries and clouds of war looming large in South Asia.

With international pressure building on Pakistan to de-escalate the tension between the two neighbours, General Musharraf’s fresh gambit came a cropper and some SAARC members also believed that Pakistan’s duplicity and support to terrorism had to be called for carrying forward the objectives of the regional grouping.

At least four SAARC member-states affected by terrorism — Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan — underlined the need for concerted and sustained action against the menace of terrorism which was impeding development.

In his speech, Mr Vajpayee said “Our cooperative future will be significantly influenced by the way in which we can tackle terrorism together.” The international community has agreed that no country would allow its soil to be used, actively or passively, to finance, shelter, arm or train terrorist groups.

“The recent experience of Afghanistan also showed graphically that tolerance, acquiescence or sponsorship of terrorism creates a monster out of the control of its own creator.”

At the same time, he appealed to the SAARC grouping to jointly declare war on poverty which afflicts about half a billion people in this region alone.

He suggested developing regional poverty alleviation programmes complemented by the member-states’ national schemes.

General Musharraf was the first to speak after Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba received the leadership baton of the SAARC grouping from Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga and focussed on tackling terrorism, poverty and illiteracy and pursuing social sector programmes.

The Pakistani President said not much could be achieved with tension and hostility among “two of the members.” He said his government was ready to engage in serious and sustained dialogue with India at all times and all levels. “Peace and tranquillity between Pakistan and India are essential for progress in South Asia.”

Stating that Pakistan itself was a victim of terrorism, he said, “We cannot address only the symptoms and leave the malaise aside.”

In an oblique reference to cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, he said, “It is equally important that a distinction is maintained between acts of legitimate resistance and freedom struggles on the one hand and acts of terrorism on the other” which has been rejected by India.

He also wanted the SAARC charter to be changed for taking up contentious bilateral matters among the member-states.


PM, Musharraf attend banquet

Kathmandu, January 5
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee tonight attended a banquet for visiting SAARC leaders hosted by his Nepali counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba in which Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was also present. Mr Vajpayee, who had earlier skipped the scaled down retreat described as informal consultations, attended the dinner along with External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra.

As speculation mounted over a meeting between the External Affairs Minister and his Pakistani counterpart Abdul Sattar, Indian officials said the two were present at the informal consultations where SAARC issues were discussed. PTI

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