M A I N   N E W S

NDA compromised with security: Cong
Tribune News Service

Mr K. Natwar Singh and Mr J.N. Dixit address a Press conference during the release of the Congress agenda paper on ‘security, defence and foreign policy in Delhi on Saturday.
Mr K. Natwar Singh and Mr J.N. Dixit address a Press conference during the release of the Congress agenda paper on ‘security, defence and foreign policy in Delhi on Saturday. 
— Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal.

New Delhi, April 10
The Congress party’s second vision paper on “Security, defence and foreign policy,” released here today read more like a chargesheet against the NDA government for its all-round failure in these areas.

Listing out its “record of grave failures”, the Congress document accused the Vajpayee Government of destroying a 55-year-old convention of building a consensus on foreign policy, castigated it for its failure to contain Pak-sponsored terrorism and compromising with national security by not utilising funds for defence purchases.

The Congress was particularly harsh on the ruling combine’s Pakistan policy which, it charged, has been “full of contradictory extremisms and ambiguities” and “lacking in clarity, consistency and conviction.”

On its part, the Congress promised to resort to course correction if elected to power, stating the main objective of its foreign policy would be to safeguard the country’s security and vital strategic interests.

The Congress also committed itself to fashioning a stable, working cooperative relationship with Pakistan while responding firmly to any threats from its neighbour.

In a scathing reference to the NDA Government’s policies towards the USA, the Congress said these had failed to give due priority to India’s own foreign policy and security interests by its willingness to adjust to the US priorities wherein the USA takes India for granted. The 12-page document said the NDA’s claims of a “paradigm shift” in Indo-US relations stood exposed after the USA’s recent unilateral declaration of Pakistan as a non-NATO ally.

Releasing the document, Mr K. Natwar Singh, chairman of the foreign affairs cell, maintained the Vajpayee government had changed its stance on Pakistan at least five times in the last five years. His colleague and former foreign secretary J.N. Dixit went a step further, stating,” What you see today in Pakistan is not foreign policy but only Bharatnatyam,” adding that cricket series will not resolve outstanding issues between the two countries.

The Congress said the NDA Government’s policy on Jammu and Kashmir had also been devoid of clarity. At one point, it declared that the principal problem in J&K was Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and that there could be no meaningful discussions on the subject till cross-border terrorism was stopped. “Yet both at Lahore and Islamabad, the NDA Government has agreed to discuss the teroritorial status of J&K with Pakistan,” the Congress document added.

While promising to improve its relations with all the major world powers and its neighbours, the Congress said its policies would be guided by national interests. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) may have faded away but the basic principle of non-alignment wherein the country’s foreign policy is independent and rooted in equality, is very much alive, the Congress maintained.

“Let this government say it is not non-aligned,” Mr Singh said while Mr Dixit explained non-alignment by quoting Mrs Indira Gandhi, who had said,” I am neither pro-US, nor pro-Soviet. I am pro-India.”

The Congress document also charged the ruling coalition with “deliberately and mischievously using” tensions with Pakistan to polarise Indian society and calling into question the patriotic credentials of a large number of people. It particularly attacked deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani for his reported statement that only the BJP could make peace with Pakistan because that would make it acceptable to the religious majority in India.


Bhajan under pressure to quit Cong
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
Desperation is showing on the Congress factions in Haryana in the wake of a conflict over selection of candidates for the Lok Sabha seats in the state.

Loyalists of Mr Bhajan Lal, HPCC chief, are claiming that they are contemplating switching over to the Bharatiya Janata Party along with their leader if the candidates proposed by Mr Bhajan Lal for the five remaining Lok Sabha seats are ignored.

“If Congress MLA Jai Prakash and other senior party members from Haryana can threaten to walk over to the BJP on the issue of ticket, why not Mr Bhajan Lal,” a former Haryana minister, who is a confidant of the HPCC chief, said. According to him, the HPCC chief’s supporters are putting pressure on him to leave the Congress and join the BJP if his suggestions on candidates are not heard.

Rivals of Mr Bhajan Lal, however, are in no mood to take the threat of Mr Bhajan Lal quitting the party seriously. “It is simply an intimidatory tactics to put pressure on Ms Sonia Gandhi to get his own candidates selected,” says a senior party MLA of Haryana.

While candidates for five seats in the state have already been decided by the party, the nominees for Kurukshetra, Karnal, Faridabad, Mahendragarh and Hisar are still awaited. Mr Bhajan Lal and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, two main rivals within the state unit of the Congress, have two separate sets of aspirants for these seats. Attempts are also being made to change the candidature of Mr Dharampal Malik, a Bhajan Lal loyalist, from Sonepat and replace him with Mr Arvind Sharma.

The Congress Central Election Committee (CEC) met in Delhi last evening but could not come to any conclusion about the candidates for the five remaining seats in Haryana. It was expected that Mr Bhajan Lal and Mr Hooda would be asked to join the meeting at some stage but neither of them were finally called.

As Ms Gandhi would be in Delhi on Saturday and Sunday, a final decision on the candidates could take place only on Monday.

The delay in the finalisation of the Congress candidates has put the Haryana BJP in difficulty whose final list too is getting delayed. The BJP wants to field Mr Jai Prakash in Hisar if he is not given the Congress ticket. But the indecision on the part of the Congress about the Hisar candidate has kept the BJP in suspense about whether Mr Jai Prakash will be available to fight on its ticket.Back



Congress launches offensive against PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 10
Following up on BJP President Venkaiah Naidu’s queries on the latest revelations on the Bofors deal, the Congress today tossed the ball right back into the BJP camp.

In fact, the Congress went a step further and asked Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to respond to three questions on the issue. The nation, it said, was entitled to know answers to the following questions:

— Mr Vajpayee should explain why his government was unable to get Mr Quattrocchi extradite from Malaysia during the past six years. This is despite the fact that India went out of its way to please Malaysia by unilaterally slashing import duty on Malaysian palm oil and awarding a number of highway construction projects to it.

— The Congress wanted Mr Vajpayee to explain why, as the leader of the Opposition, he wrote a letter to the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao pleading on behalf of the Hindujas in the Bofors case. This, it was stated, was known and privately acknowledged by Law Minister Arun Jaitely.

— The Congress further asked the Prime Minister to explain why, as the leader of the Opposition in 1996-97, Mr Vajpayee had bombarded the then government with letters against Snamprogetti’s involvement in an Indo-Oman urea joint venture and then reversed his position after becoming the Prime Minister.

A series of recent media reports quoting Mr Sten Lindstrom, the Swedish officer in charge of the Bofors investigation, have appeared stating that Congress President Sonia Gandhi be also questioned in the case.

Congress secretary Jairam Ramesh said Mr Lindstrom had made similar remarks in 1998. He wondered why no action was taken during the past six years on the “so-called revelations”. He said these questions could only be answered by the Prime Minister.

The tone and tenor of the Congress response suggests a conscious decision on its part to launch an offensive against the Prime Minister himself. As the Lok Sabha elections draw closer, the slugfest between two parties has only intensified, hitting an all-time low.

The Congress has shed its inhibitions over targeting Mr Vajpayee in its attempt to dent his teflon-image by questioning his role in the freedom struggle. The BJP, on the other hand, has put aside its development agenda and is focussing only on Ms Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin.

In fact, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi have launched a personalised attack against Ms Gandhi and her two children. Although BJP leaders, including Mr Vajpayee, have spoken periodically about the need for a dignified political debate, they have not asked their campaigners to desist from stooping so low.Back


Jaitley hits out at Congress

Bangalore, April 10
Law and Commerce Minister Arun Jaitley today squarely blamed the Congress for the spread of terrorism across the country and for India losing territory to Pakistan and China.

Reacting to the Congress criticism of the foreign policy outlined by the National Democratic Alliance Government in its document on foreign policy and internal security, released in New Delhi, Mr Jaitley said, “Let us not forget that it was when Congress was in power that we lost one third of Kashmir to Pakistan, thousands of kilometres to China in 1962 and terrorism raised its ugly face in different parts of the country.”

He accused the Congress of remaining silent when Pakistan was internationalising the Kashmir issue.

During the last few years the NDA Government had successfully internationalised cross-border terrorism, he said, adding: “The Congress credentials on this issue are a suspect.”

He said never before in India had foreign policy and diplomacy been used as an effective tool or instrument for peace in the region as it had happened in the last few years. — UNIBack

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | National Capital |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |