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'Has India let Pakistan off the hook?'

Business Standard  |  New Delhi 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said he has not conceded ground, but it remains true that Pakistan has taken little action to demonstrate its intention to tackle terror.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy
MP, Rajya Sabha, Spokesperson, BJP

‘We went to Sharm el-Sheikh as a victim of terror and returned from there as someone accused of sponsoring terror’

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision on two recent occasions — on climate change and Baluchistan — confirms that he has opted for a kind of unilateralism which has made even his partymen uncomfortable. Even If we treat the 2°C cap as an aspirational commitment and ignore it for a while, we can’t condone his action to incorporate Baluchistan into the the text of Indo-Pak joint declaration signed at Sharm el-Sheikh.

The monumental lapse has eroded the consistent foreign policy pursued by the Indian government. While we appreciate the stand of the government to endorse former PM A B Vajpayee’s policies, the two can’t be equated. The January 6, 2004 joint statement between Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf was a landmark initiative but we did not budge when issue of terror was brought up in Agra and even allowed the talks to fail.

The first dilution of the Vajpayee line was seen in 2006 at Havana where Manmohan Singh made an effort towards reviving parity between India and Pakistan when he pointed that Pakistan was also a victim of terror. A moral equivalence was sought to be brought between India and Pakistan by him by equating both as victims of terror — ignoring the fact that terror remained Pakistan’s major export to India. The major lapses by the Prime Minister negated Vajpayee’s philosophy completely. Sharm el-Sheikh brings out two lethal lapses by India’s foreign policy negotiators.

First, incorporating Baluchistan in the joint statement was a conscious and deliberate move on the part of Pakistan with the obvious intent of pointing an invisible finger at India. Apparently, after Sharm el-Sheikh, the blame of sponsoring terrorism was shifted to India and we became a sponsor of terror overnight. Before Sharm el-Sheikh, Baluchistan never figured in any diplomatic text between the two nations.

The second major lapse was to de-bracket action on terrorism from the composite dialogue process. The joint statement overemphasised the need for dialogue, but delinked dialogue from action against terror. Shockingly, the Prime Minister, on his return to India on July 17, dramatically changed his statements with regard to what happened at Sharm el-Sheikh.

The condition precedent for a composite dialogue on January 6, 2004 was not to allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities against India. The Prime Minister has now weakened his position on July 27. The condition to not allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities against India is now only for full normalisation of relations and no longer a prerequisite for commencing a composite dialogue with Pakistan. The joint declaration at Sharm el-Sheikh implicitly means that the dialogues can commence without terror as a connection.

The Congress party’s stand on this issue is ambivalent and it reluctantly came out in support of the Prime Minister. Though the Congress President on July 30 supported the Prime Minister for his statement, she was reluctant to endorse the joint statement. Perhaps, she was aware that press conferences have no locus in international affairs and signed statements are the only texts that matter.

Manmohan Singh’s recent stand does not represent a continuity in India’s foreign policy. The NDA’s foreign policy was to negotiate from a position of strength. The Sharm el-Sheikh declaration is a negotiation out of fear and a dialogue minus the issue of terror. The Prime Minister erroneously told the nation that there are only two options — dialogue or war. The fact remains Sharm el-Sheikh was an episode of shame. The paradox is that India went to Egypt as a victim of terror and returned as an accused.

P C ChackoP C Chacko
MP, Lok Sabha, Congress

‘We will decide when to have the composite dialogue — and this will resume only after Pakistan takes action on terror’

Instead of criticising the joint statement between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani, our political opponents should hail it as a major diplomatic success of India vis-à-vis Pakistan.

Pakistan initially refused to admit that its citizens had attacked Mumbai. However, after having been pressured by India, it has admitted for the first time, that terror activities against India are being planned on its soil. Pakistan had already arrested five terrorists who had links with the Mumbai attack. We are still not happy or satisfied. Our Prime Minister told Pakistan in unambiguous terms that it had to book everyone linked to the Mumbai attack. The Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafeez Sayeed has to be brought to justice. Though Pakistan is on the defensive, it had initially claimed it had nothing to do with the attack.

This is just the beginning but it is a beginning in right direction. Earlier, we could not convince other countries that Pakistan always emerged unscathed after committing grave crimes against India. But Pakistan is now on the defensive and we have been able to mobilise world in our favour. The BJP government could not even achieve one-tenth of what this government has accomplished today.

The opposition has completely misinterpreted the ‘delinking of dialogue and terror’. India has a very clear and firm position. We will go for a composite dialogue only if Pakistan takes concrete action to book all the culprits responsible for the Mumbai attack. It is our prerogative to schedule the composite dialogue. In plain language it means that, dialogue or no dialogue, we want Pakistan to take action; we want Pakistan to immediately proceed with anti-terrorism measures while the composite dialogue will take place later.

The BJP is also making a hue and cry over the mention of Baluchistan in the joint statement. Baluchistan is an internal affair of Pakistan. If Pakistan wants to mention Baluchistan, why should we oppose it? I do not understand the logic of the BJP’s argument. We have not contributed to the problems in that region. If Pakistan’s prime minister talks about his concerns, it doesn’t bind us. If he feels that he has some information about Baluchistan, let us have it. We condemn terrorism in any form, in any part of the world, perpetuated by anybody in unmistakable terms.That is the message of this text.

The BJP is taking an opportunist stance. During the NDA regime, it continued a dialogue with Pakistan even after the Kargil war and the attack on Parliament. Is it India’s position that it will not talk to Pakistan or any other country? Certainly not! There was a lot of hype over former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee’s trip to Agra to meet President Musharraf. What happened after that? He went back without having signed a joint declaration. He returned to Pakistan after having accused India.

We want to see if Pakistan behaves as a responsible nation. That is the message we give them. I cannot think of a better joint statement between India and Pakistan at the moment. The BJP claims our foreign policy has developed cracks like the Delhi Metro’s pillars. The foreign policy pillars of this country were not shaken when the Prime Minister returned from Sharm-el-Sheikh but they were shaken when the former Prime Minister went in a bus from here to Lahore. When he reached Lahore, our foreign policy pillars were shaking because all this while Pakistani soldiers were infiltrating into Kargil.

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First Published: Wed, August 05 2009. 00:33 IST