M A I N   N E W S

Stop terror for talks, PM tells Pakistan
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 23
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today admitted that infiltration of terrorists had come down and the India-Pakistan ceasefire was holding well but made it clear that bilateral talks with Islamabad could begin only after the neighbour were to put a complete stop to cross-border terrorism.

Mr Vajpayee today virtually gave his brief roadmap of India’s Pakistan policy when he briefed the BJP parliamentary party, the last meeting of the party before he leaves for Islamabad to attend the 12th SAARC Summit there from January 4-6.

An aide in the Prime Minister’s Office said Mr Vajpayee in his 10-minute address took note of the positive developments in Indo-Pak relations ever since his April 19 peace initiative but added that it was “not enough” for the resumption of bilateral talks.

The Prime Minister stressed that any meaningful talk with Pakistan would depend on Islamabad “permanently” ending cross-border terrorism and destroying terrorist camps and other infrastructure in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The future of the Indo-Pak talks would depend on the conduct of Pakistan in taking measures to address India’s concerns about terrorism and nothing less than a complete end to the terrorism apparatus and infrastructure would do.

Mr Vajpayee said he would attend the summit in Islamabad where the focus would be on regional economic cooperation. South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement was scheduled to be signed during the summit, he said.

The Prime Minister underlined the need for Pakistan shedding its feeling of hostility towards India if the talks were to bear fruit.

Meanwhile, BJPPP spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra quoted the Prime Minister as saying that that there was “no uncertainty about the holding of the Lok Sabha elections on schedule”.

He said the party’s electoral victories in three of the four Assembly elections were a good sign for the party and had boosted the confidence of both the BJP and the NDA coalition.

“We have to take advantage of the prevailing situation which was favourable to the party and accelerate the good work done so far in order to emerge victorious in the elections,” Mr Malhotra quoted Mr Vajpayee as saying.

Asked if the Prime Minister’s call meant that there would be early elections, Mr Malhotra quoted BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu as saying that the MPs had 250 days for achieving Mission 2004 and win 300 seats for the BJP. “This only means that the elections are to be held as per schedule”, Mr Malhotra said.

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani listed the successes of the current winter session which was one of the “shortest” but a historic one when it came to the results. The session passed 22 Bills, including the Anti-Defection Bill, which debarred a defector from holding any public office till re-election and restricts the size of the ministries at the Centre and in states to 15 per cent of the strength of the respective Lower Houses.

He said the country had achieved a string of successes during the eventful winter session in which Bhutan had acted to destroy ULFA camps in its territory and BODO militants had surrendered. This was a good sign for bringing back normalcy in the North-East, Mr Advani said.


Pak regrets statement
Muhammad Najeeb

Islamabad, December 23
Pakistan today termed Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s statement on cross-border terrorism as “regrettable” and said India should end “repression” in Kashmir to create a conducive atmosphere for talks.

“This (statement by Mr Vajpayee) is regrettable,” Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan said at a briefing here while reacting to the Vajpayee’s remarks.

Mr Vajpayee today said any talks with Pakistani leaders on bilateral issues during his visit for the SAARC summit in Islamabad would be on the condition that Pakistan ends cross-border terrorism and dismantles terrorist infrastructure and training camps on its soil.

The spokesman said Pakistan had shown flexibility and “we hope that India would respond positively.” He said Pakistan also expected India to “ease and end repression” in Kashmir that would help in improving the atmosphere and environment for talks. He alleged human rights violations were continuing in Kashmir and people continued to suffer there.

Emphasising that when leaders of both the countries meet in Islamabad they must move forward, he asked India to show flexibility.

“The tone has been set by President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali by announcing certain confidence-building measures,” Mr Khan told mediapersons.

The measures, he said, included facilitating the agreement on overflights and a “12-point package by Pakistani leaders.” He said: “It is a challenge for the leadership of the two countries as the flexibility has to be two-way.”

Pakistani officials expect a meeting between Mr Jamali and Mr Vajpayee on the sidelines of the summit. But the spokesman said Pakistan did not have any schedule for bilateral meetings. He said the detailed programme on the summit would be announced by the SAARC secretariat after approval by the member states.

He said Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Aziz Ahmed Khan was in Islamabad for “routine meetings” as a very important event was going to take place here next month. — IANS

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