Today's Paper

'Pak. in a much worse category'

New Delhi April 9. The External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, said today that ``if lack of democracy, possession of weapons of mass destruction and export of terrorism were reasons for a country to make pre-emptive strike in another country, then Pakistan deserved to be tackled more than any other country.''

Responding in the Rajya Sabha to a discussion on an all-party resolution on the United States-led war on Iraq, Mr. Sinha denied that India's foreign policy was Pakistan-centric and gave certain ``clarifications'' on issues raised by the Opposition members.

Asserting that there was no third-party role on issues between India and Pakistan, Mr. Sinha said there was no question that anybody was being invited or would be permitted to play a role. While India had not hesitated to discuss the issue of cross-border terrorism under the international resolution against global terrorism, Indo-Pakistan bilateral issues would be discussed only under the Shimla accord.

``We know from experience, on the basis of evidence, that Pakistan does not fall in the same category as Iraq. It is in a much worse category, and therefore, it was in that context, that the reply given by me was that if these were the criteria, then Pakistan is a fitter case,'' Mr. Sinha said.

The House later unanimously adopted the resolution against the U.S.-led war on Iraq and said the coalition forces must immediately withdraw. It emphasised that Iraq's sovereignty should be kept intact and its reconstruction carried out under the supervision of the United Nations.

The resolution, moved ``under exceptional circumstances'' by the Chairman, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, was the same as passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday after much wrangling between the treasury benches and the Opposition over whether the war should be ``condemned'' or ``deplored''. The Lower House finally settled for a Hindi word ``ninda'' which can be taken to mean either or neither.

Although the Rajya Sabha was one in its harsh criticism of American ``unilateralism'' and ``hegemony'', the Government was taken to task for Mr. Sinha's reported remarks that India has a case for preemptive attack in Pakistan.

The Minister explained that his remarks were in response to questions asked in the media, to which the U.S. State Department reacted. ``It should not be taken as a snub or humiliation. We must show confidence as a nation of one billion, which has the economic, military and democratic strength to tackle the problem with the same unity as shown in adopting the resolution on Iraq.''

Initiating the discussion, the Congress leader, K. Natwar Singh, lambasted the Government for its ``inconsistent'' foreign policy and wanted to know whether the Minister's remarks on pre-emptive strike amounted to a justification of America's unilateral attack on Iraq. He questioned the legitimacy of the war which was contrary to the U.N. Charter.