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Send strong message but don’t stop talking, says Congress

Special Correspondent
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Dialogue will serve no purpose unless Pakistan honours agreements: BJP

Yashwant Sinha
Yashwant Sinha

As the Bharatiya Janata Party stepped up its rhetoric against Pakistan, urging the government to suspend the ongoing dialogue process, the Congress, reflecting the government’s position, adopted a balanced line: a strong message needed to be sent out to Islamabad that violations of the Geneva Convention would not be tolerated, but that should not in any way hamper the peace talks.

This came after the former External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, argued that dialogue would serve no purpose unless Pakistan was willing to honour past agreements and commitments, even as he conceded that India should not sever diplomatic ties with that country.

Responding sharply to his remarks, Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit said it was possible the BJP was now regretting that it had taken the bus to Lahore, a reference to the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s historic bus ride. “We want friendly relations with Pakistan and [so] the process of dialogue is also on,” Mr. Dikshit said, pointing out that it was for the government to decide whether the recent incident [killings of two Indian soldiers] was so serious that it merited strong action. “We don’t want to break the process of peace but at the same time we need to send a strong message to Pakistan that we are strong and can face any challenge.”

Mr. Sinha’s comments came in the wake of Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj attacking the government for its weakness in engaging Pakistan. India needed to take “tough measures” against Islamabad, Ms. Swaraj said, as she lamented that the government had not bothered to respond to the BJP’s offer of unconditional support to any measure it planned to take.

On Friday, the BJP even organised a protest the killing of two soldiers by Pakistani troops, in a bid to pressure the government to take a tough position against Islamabad.

Mr. Sinha conceded that the NDA government had committed the mistake of engaging with Pakistan: “During discussions with Pakistan, we should keep one basic principle in mind — that it has never implemented the agreements. It accepts the agreements but never implements them. Even today if any agreement takes place with Pakistan, you can assume it will not be followed,” he said.

Referring to the January 2004 agreement with Pakistan when Mr. Vajpayee visited Islamabad, he said, “Then Pakistan had agreed that it will not allow its land or land within its control to be used for promoting violence against India. But this too was not implemented and 26/11 took place.”


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