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Pakistan resents Rahul's remarks

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STAR CAMPAIGNER: A garland from supporters comes flying at Congress MP Rahul Gandhi campaigning at Tihar in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday. Photo: PTI/Atul Yadav
STAR CAMPAIGNER: A garland from supporters comes flying at Congress MP Rahul Gandhi campaigning at Tihar in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday. Photo: PTI/Atul Yadav

Nirupama Subramanian

Discredit to freedom fighters, says BJP; Should be viewed holistically: Congress

ISLAMABAD: Whether Congress MP Rahul Gandhi's statement, counting the 1971 break-up of Pakistan among his family's "achievements," will win the party votes in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections is uncertain, but it definitely has not won him friends here.

"It validates the point that we all know - that India has always been trying to interfere in Pakistan's internal affairs and to destabilise Pakistan. It is a clear admission of this by a prominent member of India's ruling family, and of the party that is ruling now," said Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam.

The break-up led to the creation of Bangladesh in what was East Pakistan. "It happened nearly 40 years ago. There is the world of a difference between Pakistan's defence capabilities then and now. To entertain or articulate such thoughts in today's world can prove extremely dangerous," she said, adding that there was "nothing in that statement that we did not already know."

Those who are actively engaged in enlarging the constituency for the ongoing peace process between the two countries are horrified.

"It is in such bad taste, and so unnecessary. It is a short-sighted approach to please certain domestic constituencies for the elections, but in the long run, so detrimental to relations between the two countries," said Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, who heads the international conflict-resolution group Pugwash.

"This is not what we expect from someone coming from the Nehru family that is known for its statesman-like approach than for this sort of petty and parochial sentiment and projecting family in a nationalistic mode" he said.

Poet and writer Kishwar Naheed said "someone has finally spoken the truth," adding that it showed "Rahul is still a bachcha [child] and has no idea about politics or diplomacy."

"I am disappointed. He comes from the younger generation, and it shows that there is still a lingering animus towards Pakistan in his generation [of Indians], which I would have expected only in an older generation," said Mushahid Hussain, secretary-general of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid), and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He said Mr. Gandhi had `confirmed' what Pakistan knew all along - that the movement in the erstwhile East Pakistan for an independent Bangladesh was a "creation of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi."

Mr. Hussain said Mr. Gandhi's remarks were aimed at winning votes in his constituency.

K.V. Prasad reports from New Delhi:

Weeks after kicking up a controversy within the Congress over remarks on the Babri Masjid demolition, Mr. Gandhi's remark on the Nehru-Gandhi family's role in the country's freedom struggle and creation of Bangladesh drew flak on Sunday from the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Communist Party of India and the Samajwadi Party.

"I belong to the family which has never moved backwards, which has never gone back on its words. You know that when any member of my family had decided to do anything, he does it. Be it the freedom struggle, the division of Pakistan or taking India to the 21st century,'' Mr. Gandhi said, addressing a public meeting at Badaun during his "Jan Sampark" programme for the ongoing Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra said Mr. Rahul Gandhi was insulting all the freedom fighters by crediting his family alone for the country's independence.

He charged that Mr. Gandhi had shown disrespect to Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and other freedom fighters.

On the Amethi MP's remarks attributing the creation of Bangladesh to his family, the BJP leader said: "We would like to remind this young fellow that it was during the rule of the same family that agreements were signed with Pakistan to give back everything that our forces had won in that conflict,'' he said.

Communist Party of India national secretary D. Raja suggested that instead of raking up historical issues on which he "obviously has no grasp,'' he should take up current issues. Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh was quoted by a news agency as saying that Mr. Gandhi was "trying hard to find a niche for himself.''

The Congress spokesperson, Abhishek Singhvi, however, said the statement should be viewed holistically and not torn out of context.

He said there were three elements to the statement: one was the undeniable contribution of the Nehru family to the freedom struggle, along with the titans, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel; the fact that Rajiv Gandhi introduced the idiom of modernisation way back in the mid-eighties was equally undeniable; Rahul Gandhi was only trying to remind the electors of the victory over Pakistan under the leadership of Indira Gandhi in 1971 the triumph not only made India proud but led to much of the Opposition hailing Mrs. Gandhi as "Durga incarnate.''

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