Monday, March 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Sushma’s terms for talks

Islamabad, March 10
Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj has said talks could not be initiated with Pakistan unless it took concrete measures to address India’s concerns over cross-border terrorism and other related issues.

In an interview with the dailies Jang and News published here today, she said if Pakistan handed over “seven to 10 fugitives” wanted by India and brought down cross-border terrorism by “40 to 50 per cent,” relations between the two countries could be normalised.

Ms Swaraj said it was ridiculous to blame the BJP for the violence in Gujarat following the Godhra carnage.

She asked Pakistan not to fall into the trap of third-party mediation, adding that “war is the last solution of any problem and everyone tries to avoid it.”

She said India would see the change in the “ground realities” before agreeing to negotiations with Islamabad.

In her first political comments during her stay here in connection with the SAARC Ministerial Conference, Ms Swaraj said President Musharraf had gone back on his path-breaking speech of January 12 by reviving his earlier stand on Kashmir in his February 5 address to the PoK Assembly.

Referring to the measures initiated by the President to tackle religious extremism she said, “if he still continues to consider the Kashmir issue to be a freedom struggle, there is no use of all those steps that you have mentioned,” she said.

Ms Swaraj, however, admitted, there had been a change in “Pakistan’s policy after September 11 and December 13, but it had been ‘’Pakistan specific and not related to cross-border terrorism.”

When pointed out that there was no extradition treaty between India and Pakistan and talks to discuss such a legal arrangement were needed, the minister said: “Our External Affairs Ministry will consider it if your Foreign Office says it is considering the list of fugitives wanted by India and we require to discuss the extradition treaty.”

She said Gen Musharraf had responded positively to Mr Advani’s proposal regarding the extradition treaty but, when asked to handover Dawood Ibrahim, he changed his position. “India was not averse to extraditing the persons wanted by Pakistan,” she said.

She took exception to a query that India had deployed troops on the border with an eye on the recent Assembly elections in four states in the country. No government could be so “irresponsible” she said. UNIBack

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