Saturday, May 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Time not ripe for war: Congress
Tribune News Service

Congress President Sonia Gandhi with other senior leaders
Congress President Sonia Gandhi with other senior leaders during the one-day special session of the All-India Congress Committee in New Delhi on Friday. 
— Tribune photo Mukesh Aggarwal

New Delhi, May 24
Congress President Sonia Gandhi today indicated that her party was not in favour of military confrontation with Pakistan at this juncture as a lot more needed to be done to convey India’s concerns on cross-border terrorism to the world.

“We have to ensure that the world listens to our voice and understands our concerns,’’ she said in her inaugural address at the one-day AICC session held here. She asked the government to act responsibly, reach out to the international community and formulate a strategy to end cross-border terrorism which would stand the test of time.

“It is a delicate situation. We have to be prepared for tougher times. We should not allow things to go out of control or take steps that give wrong results. As nuclear powers both (India and Pakistan) have to behave responsibly,” Ms Gandhi said.

She said despite fundamental and unbridgeable differences with the BJP on political, economic, social and foreign affairs, the party was lending its support to the government on ending cross-border terrorism and bringing peace to Jammu and Kashmir.

Deployment of troops along the western border for the past five months, Ms Gandhi regretted, had not helped reduce terrorism or change Pakistan’s Kashmir policy. While Pakistan had not handed over the 20 terrorists and criminals demanded by India, the international community had not done enough to force the Pakistan President to implement assurances given in his January 12 statement, she said.

“Mere words cannot be a substitute for a strategy that would take into account ground realities and stand the test of time,’’ she said. The Congress President, however, expressed disappointment that no evidence had been found about the Government evolving any concrete strategy.

Ms Gandhi said “official and non-official contacts should be maintained under the 1972 Simla Agreement and the 1999 Lahore declaration. She, however, cautioned that the RSS and other like-minded organisations should not be allowed to communalise the situation.

She said the government should ensure that the election process in Jammu and Kashmir was not hindered and all sections and political streams were allowed to participate in it without any threat to democratic and secular polity.

Ms Gandhi referred to the party’s weak position in UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, saying that more efforts had to be made by party men to revive the Congress in these states.

Ms Gandhi devoted a large part of her address to the threat posed to secularism and the tragedy in Gujarat. In the coming Assembly elections in Gujarat, the Congress would go to the people with the message of social peace, harmony and religious amity, she said.

Earlier, the delegates stood in silence for a minute to pay homage to senior party leaders who died recently and to innocent victims following the carnage in Godhra and the communal tension in other parts of Gujarat.



Outlining her party’s commitment to fight communalism, Ms Gandhi today announced setting up a rapid action force of party men — Sadbhavana Ke Sipahi. The Gujarat tragedy, she said, had damaged the country’s secular foundations and “diminished us as human beings.” Sadbhavana Ke Siphai, comprising party cadres, would act as the Congress’ infantry in the war against communalism, Ms Gandhi declared. She said the force would spread the message of secularism throughout the country.


Speakers competed with one another in eulogising the party president. While DPCC chief Subash Chopra compared Ms Gandhi to “mother” and a few seconds later, to “elder sister,” veteran Congress leader Vasant Sathe said he had only one wish before leaving this mortal world — of seeing Soniaji as Prime Minister of the country. Mr Shanker Singh Vaghela, spewing venom at his former Sangh associates, exhorted Congressmen to work at least 10 per cent of what Ms Gandhi did regularly. “This will ensure our return to power,” he predicted.

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