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PM defends stance on Pak, BJP stages walkout

Last updated on: July 17, 2009 17:14 IST
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Under attack from the Bharatiya Janata Party for the outcome of his meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said the starting point for 'any meaningful dialogue' will depend on actions by Islamabad to end cross-border terror and hoped there would be 'forward movement' in the coming months.

Making a statement in the Lok Sabha against the backdrop of BJP's charge of reversal of India's long-standing position, Dr Singh said, "Action on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and therefore cannot await other developments."

BJP was not satisfied, with Leader of Opposition L K Advani charging that India had 'conceded and capitulated'. He then led a BJP walkout from the House.

Dr Singh, who met Gilani at Sharm-el Sheikh in Egypt on Thursday, said he had conveyed to the Pakistani leader that "sustained, effective and credible action needs to be taken not only to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice but also to shut down the operations of terrorist groups so as to prevent any future attacks."

Underlining that India seeks cooperative relations with Pakistan and "engagement is the only way forward to realise the vision" of a stable and prosperous South Asia, he said India is "willing to go more than half way provided Pakistan creates the conditions for a meaningful dialogue".

"Whether, when and in what form we broaden the dialogue with Pakistan will depend on future developments," he added

"It has been and remains our consistent position that the starting point of any meaningful dialogue with Pakistan is a fulfillment of their commitment, in letter and spirit, not to allow their territory to be used in any manner for terrorist activities against India," Dr Singh insisted.

He pointed out that Gilani and he himself had agreed that the foreign secretaries will meet as often as necessary and report to the two foreign ministers, who will meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Dr Singh said he had discussed with Gilani the present condition of bilateral ties, the future potential and the steps that are necessary to enable the two countries to realise their potential.

"I conveyed to him (Gilani) the strong sentiments of the people of India over the issue of terrorism, especially the terrorist attacks in Mumbai," the prime minister said.

He said Gilani had assured him that Pakistan would "do everything in its power" to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice.

BJP, which raised the issue in both Houses, accused the government of reversing the country's long-standing position, that dialogue cannot be pursued if terrorism continues.

After Singh's statement, Advani said delinking of terrorism from composite dialogue has been the 'demand of Pakistan' and that the Indian government had conceded seven months after the Mumbai attacks.

"What has happened that made you change the stance? The government has capitulated," he alleged.

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