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No discord between govt, party: PM
Says will clear air on joint statement on July 29
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 25
Dismissing reports of differences between the party and the government over the India-Pakistan joint statement, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today asserted that the government would give all “relevant answers” to the questions raised on this foreign policy initiative when it was debated in the Lok Sabha on July 29.

“I have made a statement in Parliament and Parliament is again going to discuss the issue. I will clarify,” Manmohan Singh told mediapersons today when his attention was drawn to the furore generated by this statement both within the Congress and outside.

Having been reassured of the party’s support for the controversial India-Pakistan joint statement after the last night’s meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, he said, “I am confident. We have all relevant answers.”

The Prime Minister was speaking to journalists at the Rashtrapati Bhavan after the presentation of the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The joint statement, issued by the Indian Prime Minister and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani at Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort on July 16, came in for criticism from the Opposition, and privately from the Congress, on two counts: it has delinked the resumption of a composite dialogue from action on terror and, for the first time, it contains a reference to Balochistan.

Matters within the party were sorted out on Friday night over a meeting of the Congress core group, the first since the Prime Minister’s return from Egypt. At the end of the over two-hour meeting, when the Prime Minister sought to dispel internal reservations over the formulation of the joint statement, the government and the party were on the same page on this issue. Both the Prime Minister and the party are now gearing up to put up a spirited defence in Parliament to counter the Opposition onslaught.

Sonia Gandhi is expected to articulate her views on this matter in her address to party MPs at the parliamentary party meeting on July 30.

UPA sources said the Prime Minister was learnt to have explained that too much should not be read into the reference to Baolchistan in the joint statement as India had “nothing to hide” even though Pakistan had consistently accused New Delhi of fomenting trouble in its largest province.

Similarly, on “delinking terror from the composite dialogue”, the PM reiterated that a structured dialogue could only commence if Pakistan took credible action against the plotters of the Mumbai attacks and dismantles the terror infrastructure on its territory. The statement has only agreed on further meetings of the two foreign secretaries but this does not mean that the “political process” has been set in motion, it is being argued.

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