The Bharatiya Janata Party indicated on Tuesday that it would ask Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Cabinet colleague Shashi Tharoor to “explain” what they meant by saying India should talk to Saudi Arabia about Pakistan-inspired terrorism.

Was this the start of the end of bilateralism in India-Pakistan dialogue, spokesperson Prakash Javadekar asked.

He said the party would ask the Prime Minister to explain his comments in Parliament. Mr. Tharoor’s remark was not just an off-the-cuff comment, but based on information on what was going on in the South Block, he alleged. He indicated that this issue could be raised in Parliament on Wednesday.

The BJP was commenting on Dr. Singh’s remark during his return to India after a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia. The party did not see the difference between an “interlocutor” and a “mediator.” It took strong exception to Mr. Tharoor’s remark describing Saudi Arabia as a “valuable interlocutor” for India with Pakistan on the subject of terrorism.

The party also objected to the Prime Minister’s comment that he “did not ask His Majesty [King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia] to do anything but use his good offices to persuade Pakistan to desist from this path [of sponsoring and abetting terrorism].”

Mr. Javadekar charged the Congress with trying to change the consensus on a bilateral approach to solving all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan. “This is shocking. The government has shifted its stand…it must explain in Parliament…Is this the beginning of agreeing to third party mediation between India and Pakistan?”

Some of Mr. Javadekar’s colleagues did not find much wrong with the Prime Minister’s statement, especially after it was pointed out that BJP leaders had never tired of asking the U.S. to put pressure on Pakistan during the Kargil war, and afterwards on the subject of terrorism.

Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani described in his blog the recent Foreign Secretary-level dialogue between India and Pakistan as a “self-inflicted insult” by the Centre, as nothing useful had emerged, except the vague decision to stay in touch. At the same time, he described the failed Agra Summit between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf as a great piece of diplomacy, as India had sent Gen. Musharraf home “empty-handed” without even a “goody-goody” joint statement.

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