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Pranab takes a dig at Pakistan

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday slammed Pakistan’s claims of being a democracy and said the “mere pretence of democracy” was not democratisation.

“Genuine democracy does not merely mean holding elections. The process of democratisation makes representatives accountable and ensures it does not encourage separate and different centres of power. The pretence of democracy is not democratisation. It is not for us to advocate but most would like to know who runs the show?” he asked in an apparent reference to Pakistan.

Justifying New Delhi’s quest for the extradition of those responsible for planning the terror strikes, Mr. Mukherjee pointed out that such incidents keep on recurring because the puppet masters had been assured immunity from prosecution. “The country was held hostage during the Mumbai terror strikes. The incident was not accidental or unintended. It was cold and calculated murder. But they operate with impunity because the safety of the handlers is assured,” he said at an international conference on development, freedom and welfare to commemorate Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s 75th birthday. The conference was organised by the Cornell University and the Institute for Human Development.

Mr. Mukherjee assured that India, which prides itself on secularism and plural heritage, won’t abandon or forsake the “cornerstone of the idea that is India.”

Other speakers including Rehman Sobhan, Kanak Mani Dixit, Asma Jehangir, Muchkund Dubey and Saman Kelegama did not agree with the atmosphere of bellicosity in India and Pakistan.

Earlier, at a conference in Sikkim, Mr. Mukherjee said the Mumbai terrorist attack is the latest instance of how sub-regionalism, regionalism and multilateralism are directly threatened by non-state actors.

“In the face of the gravest of provocations perhaps the time has now come to fine-tune India’s priorities,” he observed.