Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision to go ahead with the scheduled Indo-Pak meeting after the blast at Pune’s
German Bakery that has so far claimed 10 lives, is not an easy one for him, with two key ministers of his government opposing the move.
According to UPA managers, while Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna supported the prime minister’s move, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Minister A K Antony wanted the meeting to be deferred. The meeting is scheduled on February 25.
Mr. Chidambaram and Mr. Antony argued that despite giving credible information and proof on 26/11 to Pakistan, Islamabad has failed to take any concrete step to stop terrorism and the recent Pune blast clearly proves that Jehadi elements are still at large in Pakistan.
The defence minister, according to sources, felt that in the absence of any concrete step by Pakistan and in the aftermath of the Pune blast, the decision to go ahead with the talks might not go down well with the domestic audience and said the armed forces might feel demoralised. The home minister echoed similar sentiments.
However, Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Krishna rallied behind the prime minister. They argued that if the talks were stalled, terrorists would succeed in their plan, as the blast at Pune’s German Bakery was aimed to derail the dialogue process.
Shivshankar Menon, the new National Security Advisor (NSA), also lent his support to Mukherjee and Krishna. He has earlier said that halting the dialogue would only strengthen the terrorists.
Before deciding to go ahead with the talks, Mr. Singh had a talk with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and this, according to sources, was aimed at taking the party into confidence and avoiding another Sharm-al-Sheikh like episode. At the Indo-Pak meeting at Egypt’s Sharm-al-Sheikh, PM and his team allowed Pakistan to mention the Balochistan issue in the joint statement. It created a major embarrassment for the government as well as the party, as Pakistani establishments charged India helping the separatist movement in Balochistan. Top leaders of the UPA have also decided that the upcoming meeting will not entertain any other issue but focus only on terror.