Govt. keen on peace despite ''difficult neighbour'': PM
7 August 2000
K. V. Prasad
New Delhi: The Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, today reiterated a commitment to the dialogue process without any preconditions - meaning that while the militants were free to raise issues outside the framework of the Constitution, the Government could respond only within its parameters. He cited the example of the ongoing ''Nagaland'' dialogue. Replying to questions in the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Vajpayee chose the occasion to convey his Government''s resolve to carry forward the peace process on its terms, undeterred by the hurdles created by a ''difficult neighbour'' and asked the Opposition to rise above politics in a ''war-like situation''. Noisy scenes were witnessed at the end of the speech when the Congress(I) leader, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, tried to highlight the ''contradiction'' between the Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes'' statement that the Pahalgam and other massacres could have been avoided if the security arrangement had been reviewed and the Prime Minister''s assertion that security was adequate. The verbal duel resumed after the break with Mr. Pranab Mukherjee raising it again. The Deputy Chairperson, Ms. Najma Heptulla, who was in the Chair adjourned the House for 10 minutes and announced later that Mr. Fernandes would clarify the matter.However, the agitated Opposition members insisted on a clarification straightway, resulting in the adjournment of the House for the day. Earlier, explaining the rationale behind the talks, Mr. Vajpayee said the Government wanted to bring the militants overground, engage them in a dialogue and stop the killings. Those who came for the talks with their faces masked could neither solve the State''s problems nor were doing the country proud. The Government would not cede any portion of land in order to arrive at a settlement, Mr. Vajpayee said adding that even during Kargil India had refused to hold fire as requested by Pakistan to allow its troops to retreat. On the security for Amarnath pilgrims, he said a three-tier arrangement existed with the Army guarding the heights, the BSF maintaining vigil along the route and the CRPF taking care of the pilgrims'' camps. The security was adequate and the killings were carried out by two foreign militants of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, on a suicide mission.