PM to put Pak in dock
St. Petersburg, July 16
This was evident from the tone and tenor of Dr. Singh’s statements during the course of an informal press briefing en route to St. Petersburg today. A day ahead of his back-to-back meetings with world leaders, including US president George Bush and Russian president Vladimir Putin, Dr Singh stuck a tough stance, saying that Pakistan had a solemn obligation to see that its territory was not used for “promoting, aiding, abetting and encouraging terrorists acts directed against our country.” He specifically wanted this commitment to be backed with action on the ground.
The strain of dealing with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf also appears to be telling on Dr Singh even though, as his aides put it, the two have established an excellent personal rapport. The Prime Minister admitted today that dealing with Musharraf has been “a learning process” but hastened to add that he is the President of Pakistan and “we have to deal with people who are in government.” “I would not like to say any harsh words,” he maintained.
Since the G8 outreach session, to which India has been invited, is being held barely a week after the Mumbai blasts, the focus of these deliberations has shifted to terrorism, more specifically, Pakistan’s role in supporting terror networks on its territory. Dr Singh said that he will be using this opportunity to impress upon the leaders gathered at the G8 summit that the international community must adopt an approach of “zero tolerance” for terrorism anywhere.
“The international community must isolate and condemn terrorists wherever they attack, whatever their cause and whichever country or group provides them sustenance and support,” the Prime Minister said, adding that he would urge world leaders to stand united with India in this war against terrorism.
Although Dr Singh did not name Islamabad directly, his constant references to the fact that the Mumbai blasts could not have been accomplished without external involvement, pointed a clear accusing finger at Pakistan. He repeatedly maintained that President Musharraf had reneged on his January 2004 commitment not to allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities against India. In this connection, Dr Singh specifically referred to the scale of the Mumbai blasts, saying these could not have been accomplished without external involvement.
The Prime Minister did not elaborate any on this but his aides maintained that India has irrefutable evidence to show that Laskhar-e-Toiba (LET), is responsible for 80 per cent of the terrorist acts being committed here. LET, informed sources said, is a creature of the ISI, stating that it is difficult to believe that President Musharraf is unaware of ISI’s activities and that India expects him to control the intelligence agency.
That the recent incidents have put the Indo-Pak peace process on the backburner was also alluded to by Dr Singh. He said though both countries need peace and stability to realise their joint potential for development , all this cannot move forward if terrorism, aided and abetted from outside, continues to take a heavy toll of innocent lives. “In a democracy, there are limits to what the leadership can do,” he added. Although relations between the two neighbours has hit a low ebb, communication between them has not completely ceased.” Dr Singh admitted that though he had personally not spoken to President Musharraf, contacts with Pakistan have been established at all levels.
Although terrorism will be the focus of the Prime Minister’s deliberations with G8 leaders, other pressing issues like energy security will also figure prominently in his meetings tomorrow. His meeting with US president George Bush will be particularly significant as the Prime Minister will be raising India’s concerns about certain aspects of the legislation on the Indo-US nuclear pact which was recently marked up by the House and Senate committees and is now awaiting passage by the US Congress. Dr Singh did not elaborate but he did say that India’s concerns have already been conveyed to the US government at all levels.
Dr Singh is also scheduled to participate in the first trilateral meeting with the presidents of Russia and China which, he said, explore joint cooperative action in dealing with issues such as terrorism and energy security which has acquired an urgency in view of the global upsurge in oil prices.