Hours after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asserted in Frankfurt that terror attacks by ‘enemies of peace’ would not deter the government from going ahead with dialogue with Pakistan, there were conflicting voices within the Congress on the merits of engaging with Islamabad.
Reacting to Thursday’s terror attacks in Jammu, the BJP and the Samajwadi Party were unequivocal in their demand that Dr. Singh call off his proposed meeting with his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.
While the response from the BJP and the SP was on expected lines, the government has reason to be concerned over the divided opinion within the Congress.
However, Congress general secretary in charge of J&K Ambika Soni who questioned the utility of talks as long as terrorism from across the border continued, charged the BJP with exploiting the issue for narrow political ends.
Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, while charging that such attacks were the handiwork of Pakistan security establishment opposed to normalisation of bilateral ties, said calling off talks would mean walking into its trap.
His case was that Pakistan’s security forces, particularly the Army and the ISI, believed that if the two countries had good relations then they would have no role in the country. “To prove their presence in Pakistan they want the Kashmir issue to remain alive and they do this by creating trouble in India and in Kashmir,” the Minister argued.
Asked if India could trust Nawaz Sharif, who was Prime Minister at the time the then Army Chief, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, engineered the Kargil war in 1999 while a dialogue was on, Mr. Azad said it was done by Gen. Musharraf to undermine the position of a democratically elected Mr. Sharif.
Another Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh tweeted: “Who are opposing PEACE AND DIALOGUE? Only Militants, BJP and Drawing Room Hawks and some hawkish elements in Media … They should also identify the Rogue elements in the Establishment and effectively purge them. Dialogue is the only way to tackle issues.”
Minister of State for Home Affairs R.P.N. Singh charged the BJP with politicising the terror attacks. “The BJP has no moral right to criticise the UPA government. When they were in power, they even invited Kargil war architect [former Pakistan President Pervez] Musharraf for talks. The BJP should not forget that,” he pointed out.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony condemned the “dastardly attack” by terrorists on security posts in the Jammu region and said the forces would deal with the militants with a firm hand.
Asking Dr. Singh to cancel his meeting with his Pakistani counterpart in New York, the BJP said Mr. Sharif be given some time to prepare the ground for talks by taking strong action against the anti-India forces operating from Pakistan.
BJP president Rajnath Singh charged the UPA with compromising the Pakistan policy and maintained that New Delhi should ask Islamabad to honour its commitment made in 2004, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister, not to allow its soil to be used for terror activities against India.
“Pursuing a spineless diplomacy at this juncture will present India as a ‘soft state’ which could be pushed around by any big or small country. The Prime Minister and the UPA government seem to be in a hurry to initiate dialogue with Pakistan,” Mr. Singh said in a statement.
Echoing the sentiments, SP leader Naresh Aggarwal asked: “We should harden our attitude towards Pakistan. For how long will our youth continue to be martyred?”