July 2001 News

No change on Kashmir

19 July 2001
The Asian Age

New Delhi: Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Thursday night told an all- party meeting convened by him to discuss the Agra summit that the National Democratic Alliance government would not alter its policy on Kashmir. Mr Vajpayee said it was clear that Pakistan wanted to discuss only Kashmir and that this insistence was unacceptable to India, parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan told reporters after the two-and-a-half-hour all-party meeting. Mr Vajpayee said there was no question of compromise on Kashmir. Mr Mahajan said the Prime Minister told the all-party meeting that it appeared that Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf came with the sole purpose of utilising the Agra summit as a platform to publicise his views on Kashmir. The Prime Minister, however, also told the leaders at the all-party meeting that he had accepted Gen. Musharraf’s invitation to visit Pakistan but added that the dates of his visit would be decided later. The Opposition parties attacked the Union government for its “diplomatic failure” at the Agra summit, saying the Indian side did not have a “structured agenda” for the talks and had done no ground work. The Opposition parties favoured the continuation of the dialogue process with Pakistan but said the NDA government should draw a lesson from the Agra summit for future talks. The Opposition parties also asked the Prime Minister for clarification on the “real reason” behind the failure of the summit and dismal media management by India. The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Dr Manmohan Singh, told reporters after the all- party meeting that the Agra summit “did not have a structured agenda and this reinforced our earlier view that there was no homework or groundwork for the summit.” Mr Vajpayee took exception to Gen. Musharraf’s remark that the violence in Kashmir was a “freedom struggle” and not cross-border terrorism. The Prime Minister said it was unfair to say that the situation in Palestine and the situation in Kashmir were similar. Mr Vajpayee said, “Let nobody think that India does not have the resolve, or the stamina, or the strength, or the will to fight terrorism.” Mr Mahajan told reporters that the Prime Minister also told Opposition leaders that he made it clear to Gen. Musharraf that if Pakistan wants to make Kashmir a core issue, then he should be prepared to go back to 1947 and discuss Pakistan- occupied Kashmir. Mr Vajpayee also criticised Gen. Musharraf for trying to draw a parallel between the Kargil conflict and the 1971 Bangladesh war. The Shiv Sena, a constituent of the NDA, was the only party to criticise Mr Vajpayee for accepting Gen. Musharraf’s invitation. It wanted no talks with Pakistan till the neighbouring country stopped cross-border terrorism. Others, like the two Communist parties, stressed on the need for continuous dialogue even though they agreed there is a need to fight cross-border terrorism. They felt that a military solution to the Indo-Pak conflict was no solution and a complex problem of 54 years could not be solved in one sitting.

 

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