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Women's Bill this very session, says PM

Source: PTI
Last updated on: March 05, 2010 15:46 IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Parliament on Friday that the "cowardly act" on February 26 in Kabul "will not bend our determination to help Afghanistan".

"Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has assured me that steps will be taken to ensure security of Indians there," he said, while addressing the Lok Sabha as part of the 'Motion of Thanks' protocol.

Contending that dialogue was the only way forward with Pakistan, Singh said that the decision to hold foreign-secretary level talks with Pakistan was a "calculated" one, but there can be no meaningful discussion till terror from there is ended.

Denying that he had sought mediation by Saudi Arabia, he asserted in the Lok Sabha that all problems with Pakistan can be resolved bilaterally if it adopted a "reasonable" attitude in dealing with terror elements which target India.

"Our policy towards Pakistan is consistent, cautious and realistic," Singh said replying to the debate on the 'Motion of Thanks' to the president's address to the Parliament during which he lambasted the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party for spreading disinformation.

He specifically rebutted charges levelled by senior BJP leader L K Advani that the government was talking to Pakistan under US pressure.

Underlining the need for keeping communication channels with Pakistan from breaking down, he said the scope of any "miscalculation can only worsen in an environment of no contact."

To buttress his point, he said the US and the erstwhile Soviet Union, even at the height of the Cold War had kept communication channels open.

Referring to the recent foreign secretary-level talks, Singh said it was not a "sudden" decision but a "calculated" one. He pointed out that he had earlier offered to resume talks on humanitarian issues.

The prime minister said not talking with Pakistan would not solve any problem and dialogue was the only way forward.

"But for any meaningful talks, terrorism must end," he said.

Referring to his meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani last year, Singh said India has emphasised to Pakistan that it must end terrorism.

"Pakistan must take strong action against terrorism... Pakistan must fulfil its assurances of not allowing territories under its control to be used for terrorism against India," he asserted.

Taking on Advani for saying that US pressure was behind India's decision to talk to Pakistan, Singh said any person making such allegations would be doing a disservice to the nation.

"I think we do a disservice to any government if we say such fundamental policies are based on anything but on supreme national interest," the prime minister said.

Making it clear that India did not want any foreign power to get involved in mediatory efforts in South Asia, he said, "I would urge the opposition not to spread disinformation on sensitive matters."

"Whatever our problems, we must learn to talk to each other and to solve our problems in a peaceful manner using our own creative genius," Singh said.

The prime minister also said the Women's Reservation Bill would be taken up in Parliament during the current session, amid indication that it would be brought in Rajya Sabha on March 8, the International Women's Day.

Announcing this while replying to the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the president's address, Singh sought the support of members on this important legislation.

"We introduced the Women's Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha in May, 2008. We have already considered the Report of the Standing Committee of Parliament on this bill. I sincerely hope that members would support the bill, as it would be the strongest affirmation of our commitment to the empowerment of women," he said.

The prime minister's announcement, which was welcomed with thumping of desks by several members, came close on the heels of Union Minister Prithviraj Chavan saying in the Rajya Sabha that the measure was on next week's agenda for the House.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal has already given hints that the bill would be taken up in Rajya Sabha on March 8. It is for the government to decide the business after getting approval from the Business Advisory Committee.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has already said that she personally attaches the "highest importance" to the bill, which seeks to reserve 33 percent seats for women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

Singh's statement showed that the government was determined to go ahead with the Women's Reservation Bill despite opposition from certain parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal (United) and sees no problem in its passage.

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