Monday, May 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

PM apprises Sonia of border situation
To hold meetings with other leaders
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 19
As part of the effort to take the Opposition into confidence on India’s offensive against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today held consultations with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and apprised her of the latest situation on the border in the wake of escalation in terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and also the diplomatic steps taken by the government against the hostile neighbour.

The hour-long meeting, held two days after the end of the Budget Session of Parliament, was also attended by Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and Home Minister L.K. Advani.

The Prime Minister, who is likely to visit a forward area in Jammu and Kashmir in the next few days, would have similar meetings with leaders of other major political parties.

While Mrs Gandhi and Mr Manmohan Singh drove past waiting mediamen without answering any queries, Mr Jaswant Singh told newspersons that “the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (Gandhi) and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha were briefed about the current situation — diplomatic as also on the border”.

He confirmed that the Prime Minister would also meet leaders of other political parties on an individual basis to brief them.

Although the situation on the border and various steps taken by the government dominated the meeting, sources said the issue of presidential elections also figured during the talks Mr Vajpayee had with Mrs Gandhi.

However, when queried about the matter, Mr Jaswant Singh gave a non-committal reply suggesting that he was not authorised to say anything on the issue. Asked whether the government was also considering the military option against Pakistan, the External Affairs Minister said that options were not discussed with the media.

Replying to another question on what was India’s “threshold of tolerance”, Mr Jaswant Singh was equally evasive. Stating that one could not define the threshold, the Minister, in a sarcastic manner, said a half-day seminar could be held on the issue and he would be glad to address it.

On the attack on an Army camp at Reasi in Udhampur district last night, he confirmed that it was a terrorist attack in which there have been “some casualties”.

Today’s meeting between Mr Vajpayee and Mrs Gandhi is considered significant, coming as it does two days after the Lok Sabha, through a unanimous resolution, authorised the government to take whatever steps it deemed fit to counter the cross-border terrorism.

It may be recalled that the Congress President, while addressing the Lok Sabha on Friday last week, had declared support of her party to the government in dealing with the situation caused by cross-border terrorism.

She wanted the government to come out with a comprehensive strategy to tackle the situation.

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