No softening on terror: PM
New Delhi, July 29
Intervening in the much-anticipated debate in the Lok Sabha on his recent visits abroad, a confident PM defended the India-Pakistan joint statement issued at Sharm-el Sheikh, which has come in for sharp criticism both within the Congress as well as by the Opposition, saying there was no question of his breaking the national consensus on dealing with Pakistan.
Setting at rest fears that India had capitulated to Pakistan by agreeing to delink terror from the composite dialogue process, the PM explained ‘’this is not correct. The joint statement emphasised that action on terrorism cannot be linked to dialogue. Pakistan knows very well that action on terror is an absolute and compelling imperative that does not depend on the resumption of dialogue.’’
On the controversial reference to Balochistan in the joint statement, he said his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani raised the issue during their Sharm-el Sheikh meeting. “I told him we are willing to discuss all these issue because we know we are doing nothing wrong. I told PM Gilani that our conduct is an open book.”
Though the joint statement had become a subject of deep controversy in political and media circles, the nearly two-hour inconclusive debate in the Lower House lacked firepower with Opposition stalwarts, including former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, not actually succeeding in putting the government on the mat. Those on the Congress benches repeatedly cheered the PM, as he picked holes in various arguments put forward by the Opposition.
Narrating what all the UPA government did post 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, he said India had for the first time made Pakistan admit that the Mumbai carnage was planned and executed from its soil.
“The reality is that this is farmore than the NDA government was ever able to extract from Pakistan during its entire tenure despite all their tall talk,” he said, adding the UPA government needed no lesson from the Opposition on how to conduct foreign affairs.
Underlining that dialogue was the best way to move forward, he asserted that India was not diluting its resolve to defeat terrorism by talking to any country. “Unless we talk directly talk to Pakistan, we will have to rely on third parties to do so,” a route which has its own limitations.
In this context, he cited the example of Vajpayee, recalling how his predecessor demonstrated political courage of visiting Lahore in 1999, which was followed by the Kargil conflict, and the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar. Still Vajpayee invited then Pakistan Pervez Musharraf to Pakistan in July 2001 and tried to make peace.
“After the attack on Parliament in December 2001, relations between the two countries were under strain again. But Vajpayee was not deterred, as a statesman should not be. In 2004, he went to Islamabad where a joint statement was issued that set out a vision for a cooperative relationship,” said the PM. Implying that the NDA had not supported him on the foreign policy front, Manmohan Singh recollected how Vajpayee got all the support of the Opposition on his bold foreign policy initiatives. “I for one share Vajpayee’s vision and I have also felt his frustration in dealing with Pakistan.”
Noting that the global scenario was changing fast, he narrated how the US and Iran had also come to the negotiating table after 30 years of hostilities. “Unless we want to go to war with Pakistan, dialogue is the only way out,” she added.
To Sinha’ specific query as what happened between June 16 --- when he met Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in Russia — and July16 —when he met Gilani at Sharm-el Sheikh that led to change of heart — the PM said Pakistan had handed over a 34-page dossier, giving details of the investigations conducted so far by Pakistani agencies, which had established beyond doubt that LET activists conspired, financed and executed the Mumbai attacks.
The dossier also speaks out the arrests of five of the accused, including Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah. A charge sheet has since been filed against them under Pakistan’s anti terrorist act and the trial would start soon.