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Vajpayee praise can't cover up PM's lapse: BJP

July 31, 2009 17:46 IST

Keeping the United Progressive Alliance government in the line of fire on Indo-Pak Sharm-el Sheikh joint statement, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's praise of Atal Bihari Vajpayee cannot shield him from his 'monumental lapse' in reversing India's consistent stand on Pakistan.

Participating in the debate on the working of External Affairs Ministry in the Rajya Sabha, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said with the "monumental lapse at Sharm-el-Sheikh, Prime Minister has brought India to a position of weakness" from strength, which former Prime Minister Vajpayee had brought to the country while dealing with Pakistan.

Jaitley said Singh has reversed the process set in motion by his predecessor, as highlighted in the January 6, 2004 joint statement, issued after talks with then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, which said terrorism must be prevented to take forward dialogue and Pakistan would not permit its territory to support terrorism.

He said de-linking action on terrorism from composite dialogue "completely destroys the Vajpayee line...praise for him cannot shield the prime minister from the monumental lapses". On Wednesday, Dr Singh described Vajpayee as a 'statesman' and said he shared his vision and frustration while dealing with Pakistan.

The Communist Party of India – Marxist joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in attacking the government on its foreign policy. "Progressivelym we are moving away from our independent foreign policy and becoming a subordinate ally of the United States," CPI-M member Sitaram Yechury said.

Yechury said the Indo-Pak statement was not a case of bad drafting, because the people who prepared this draft are on the verge of retirement after a distinguished career. "Don't make them a scapegoat," he said even as Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, who is laying down office today, was present in the officials' gallery. Both Yechury and Jaitley said there were contradictions in the prime minister's statement on July 17 and July 29.

"The condition not to allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities against India is now only for full normalisation of relations and no longer for starting a composite dialogue with Pakistan...the joint declaration at Sharm-el Sheikh means irrespective of there being no action against terror, the dialogue can start," Jaitley said.

Jaitely said the stand of the Congress party on Indo-Pak joint statement is vague. He said while the Congress party is appreciative of the prime minister's response in Parliament on the issue, its president Sonia Gandhi was 'reluctant' to support the joint statement.

 Jaitley said there is fundamental distinction in the joint statement and Dr Singh's response in the Lok Sabha. He asked why the Congress is shy of making a comment on the joint statement. Accusing the prime minister of being an alarmist, Jaitley said Dr Singh has told the nation that there are only two options -- dialogue or war. This means that the foreign policy was being conducted from a position of weakness, he added.

Jaitley said international relations are governed by the joint statements and agreed texts and not by unilateral speeches of the heads of government in their own countries. Further, engagement between Indian and Pakistan would commence only from the analysis of the joint statement, he said, asking whether India would be bound by the clear and unambiguous meaning of the joint text in English language or by its unilateral explanation by the prime minister.

With inputs from PTI

Onkar Singh in New Delhi