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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Dec 2014

Govt toes Cong line, goes slow on Pak talks

Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 16, 2013
First Published: 23:40 IST(16/8/2013) | Last Updated: 23:42 IST(16/8/2013)

Ruled by the Congress’ decision to take a tough stand on the killing of five soldiers by Pakistani troops on the LoC and frequent ceasefire violations thereafter, the government is expected to hold out on any further dialogue with the neighbour.

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India is unlikely to react to two sets of dates Pakistan has conveyed for talks at the water secretary level (August 27-28) and on the Sir Creek issue (September 16-17), various sources have told HT. It is also in no mood to propose dates for three talks it was to host — at the home secretary level, on Siachen and between the two foreign secretaries on peace and security, Jammu & Kashmir and friendly exchanges.

This has also cast a shadow on the proposed meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York in September-end.

“The meeting between the PMs depends on what happens in the coming days. We expect Pakistan to address our concerns on terrorism, bringing the 26/11 attackers to justice and unprovoked action by its army along the LoC,” a government functionary said.

But while New Delhi expects “concrete measures and tangible forward movement” as a condition for the Singh-Sharif talks, sources in the know also see a very remote chance of Islamabad delivering on the first two issues, especially 26/11. These are “domestic imperatives” for the poll-bound UPA and Congress to ward off Opposition allegations of going soft on Pakistan.

There was talk of Pakistan sending a judicial commission on 26/11 to Delhi but it is learnt that this is also not happening.

An indication of the Congress’ tough stance emerged when a senior party functionary told HT defence minister AK Antony’s first statement on the August 6 border raid that killed the five jawans was an “error of judgment”. Antony had blamed the attack on terrorists, prompting the BJP to say he’d given Islamabad a clean chit. He changed that to “specialist Pakistani army troops” in his second statement.

This was followed by strong statements by the government that put conditions for talks, such as an “environment free of violence and terror” for resolving issues, “determined action (by Pakistan) to dismantle terrorist networks”, and “tangible movement” on bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice “quickly”. It said that “unprovoked incidents on the LoC by the Pakistan army” would have “consequences for bilateral ties”.

The latest developments mirror what happened with the Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement of July 2009, months after 26/11. The Congress had then too distanced itself from the statement, which had created a political storm for “de-linking action on terrorism from talks”.


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