Wednesday, November 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Give up N-pursuit, Atal tells Iraq
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 19
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today sent out a strong message to the USA, and conveyed his tacit support to Iraq when he said without mincing words that “the people of all nations have a right to rule themselves and choose their own leader.”

Since the months-old US-Iraq standoff, this is the first time that Mr Vajpayee has chosen to react to the crisis for the first time and made remarks at a public function which will not be palatable to the Bush administration.

At the same time, the Prime Minister commented on the alleged nuclear capabilities of Baghdad and said in his speech at a Sikh congregation to mark the 533rd birth anniversary of Guru Nanak here that Iraq should give up such a pursuit “on its own” as nuclear weapons endanger the humanity.

The Prime Minister expressed the hope that no war would take place in the world and all matters would be resolved through dialogue under the aegis of the UN. “No one should try to enforce its will on others,” the Prime Minister said.

Mr Vajpayee made these remarks after he referred to Guru Nanak’s visits to various parts of India and the world, including Baghdad. He said Guru Nanak’s dream and vision of peace, friendship, equality and brotherhood gave “an India of 100 crore” the strength to fight terrorism from any quarter.

“If terrorism, of any form, any colour or any hue, wants to impose itself on anyone else, it will not be allowed to succeed,” he said.

Mr Vajpayee was wearing a pink turban while he addressed the gathering. It was a vintage Vajpayee for the audience who found him the usual powerful orator as he talked about Guru Nanak’s life and times. Mr Vajpayee asked the people to place themselves in a situation which existed when Guru Nanak lived over 500 years ago when India was under foreign rule. Superstition and regressive ideologies were on the rise and the people were wont to blame their fate, and not their deed (karma), for all evils.

It was in that age of darkness that Guru Nanak “ushered in an era of light by giving the message of brotherhood, equity and fearlessness”. He toured the entire country, met common people, shared their woes and nurtured and nourished the feeling of camaraderie between all sections of the society.

Mr Vajpayee made a moving gesture to the Sikh community when he invited Sikhs to celebrate Guru Nanak Jayanti at the PM’s official residence every year “even if I am here or not”. The audience immediately hailed the Prime Minister by shouting slogans “Long live Vajpayee”. Mr Vajpayee said he hoped the celebrations would continue to take place each year, even though “those who occupy this place (PM’s residence) may change.”


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