M A I N   N E W S

No change in stand on terror: PM
Rebuts criticism on joint mechanism with Pak
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

Nainital, September 24
Rebutting the criticism from the security establishment and the BJP on the formation of a joint mechanism with Pakistan on fighting terrorism, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said it would actually test Islamabad’s assurance on not allowing its territory to be used for terrorism against India.

The Prime Minister repeatedly maintained that the misgivings being expressed about the joint mechanism were totally unfounded, adding emphatically that this proposal did not suggest that India had changed its stand on cross-border terrorism.

Addressing a joint press conference with Congress president Sonia Gandhi after the two-day conclave of Congress Chief Ministers, Dr Manmohan Singh observed that though there had been a “trust deficit” between India and Pakistan, it was important that the two countries remained engaged as this would enable them to find ways of resolving outstanding issues and means to tackle their problems, including terrorism.

“The criticism against setting up of the joint mechanism is not right. There is no change in our approach on terrorism,” he asserted, adding that his government had been saying that talks with Pakistan could move ahead only when Islamabad fulfilled its promise of not allowing the territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India.

Strong objections have come in from security experts and the BJP ever since the Prime Minister and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf announced the decision to set up a joint mechanism during their talks in Havana. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has even gone as far as to describe it as a conspiracy against the country.

Rejecting all these objections, the Prime Minister said the composite dialogue, to be resumed shortly, would find ways to reconcile the positions of the two countries with regard to Jammu and Kashmir, since New Delhi had always maintained that there could be no redrawing of boundaries while Pakistan had said it would not accept the line of control as the permanent border.

Hitting back at Mr Vajpayee, the Prime Minister reminded his predecessor that he had invited President Musharraf to Delhi for talks after the Kargil conflict, shook hands with him after the terror attack on Parliament and then followed it up by travelling to Islamabad.

Although he dwelt at length on Indo-Pak relations, Dr Manmohan Singh was cryptic when questioned about the appointment of a new Foreign Minister. “You will hear about it in due course of time,” was all he had to say. It was only recently on his trip to Havana that Dr Manmohan Singh had told mediapersons that a new External Affairs Minister would be in office on his return to Delhi.

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil got a pat on the back from the Prime Minister though there has been a lot of speculation about a change in his portfolio in view of his poor handling of the security situation. “I am fully satisfied with the performance of the Home Ministry,” he said when asked if Mr Patil could be given another charge.



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