Friday, May 9, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Vajpayee rules out denuclearisation
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today turned down Pakistan’s suggestion for denuclearisation of South Asia saying that while Islamabad’s nuclear programme was India-specific, our programme was not focused on Pakistan.

Replying to a debate on Indo-Pak ties in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister said, “Pakistan’s nuclear programme is India-specific. But India’s nuclear programme is not Pakistan-specific. We have to keep in mind developments in other neighbouring countries as well.”

India has adopted a nuclear doctrine which clearly states that it will not be the first to use such weapons while Pakistan is yet to come out with this type of assurance.

On Pakistan’s no-war pact offer, Mr Vajpayee said instead of no-war pact, Islamabad should make a declaration against any proxy war.

Elaborating on the need for talks, Mr Vajpayee said, “I have told our Pakistani friends that friends can be changed but not neighbours. We have to live here. We either live as friends or we keep fighting, making ourselves a butt of ridicule before the world,” Mr Vajpayee said.

Asserting that internal peace depended on external peace, the Prime Minister said, “We should maintain friendship with Pakistan to the extent possible.”

Rejecting the Opposition charge of being guilty for the failure of the Agra summit, he said Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf went back empty handed despite putting the entire focus on Kashmir.

Rebutting the charges that the government was not adequately prepared for the Lahore and Agra events, he said, “We would not have been able to fight in Kargil successfully. Their Prime Minister had to go (after Kargil).”

The Prime Minister said despite differences of views, the ultimate objective was to maintain India’s prestige, unity and honour.

Mr Vajpayee said India and Pakistan should concentrate and move ahead on resolving outstanding issues other than Jammu and Kashmir.

Referring to the Lahore Declaration, he said there was no mention of Kashmir. This was after lot of deliberation by the two countries.

Earlier initiating the debate, Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi charged the government of vacillating and contradictory statements on the issue of resumption of talks with Pakistan.

The Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha had been giving conflicting statements on the issue, she pointed out, while praising Mr Vajpayee’s stand that talks could only be held if Islamabad stopped cross-border terrorism.

Mrs Gandhi wanted to know whether the government had obtained firm commitments from Pakistan that its sponsorship of cross-border terrorism would cease. “Are we to understand that this remains the pre-condition for the resumption of dialogue,” she asked.

She said the Congress stand had been clear and unequivocal as it always said the doors of diplomacy and the windows of dialogue — official and unofficial, formal and informal — must be kept open and active at all times on “all issues of mutual concern and interest.”


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