Congress president Sonia Gandhi avoided referring to the Indo-Pak joint statement or Balochistan while backing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s “firm and unequivocal statement” on foreign policy issues, particularly on Pakistan, in the Lok Sabha. She stressed that Pakistan needs to act against terror before a composite dialogue can get underway.
Addressing her MPs at the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting on Thursday, Sonia said: “No one should be in any doubt on our party’s position vis a vis Pakistan. It remains unchanged. We support the resumption of the dialogue process with Pakistan but only after it has demonstrated its seriousness to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks to justice and to prevent its territory from being used to launch terror attacks on any part of the country.”
These, she added, are imperatives for restoring confidence and building an environment conducive to any meaningful dialogue.
In confining herself to the PM’s statement in Parliament (on Wednesday) and avoiding any reference to the Sharm-el Shaikh joint statement or Balochistan, Sonia may have drawn a line of distinction between the party and the government that has to deal with it.
The joint statement had led to an Opposition furore in Parliament and unease in the Congress for delinking terror from the composite dialogue and including Balochistan.
On Thursday, in fact, the Opposition tried to put the government on the mat over the B-word when Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was speaking on the subject.
But AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi dismissed suggestions of any difference between the party and the government on the issue.
“You media have created such an impression…The government and the party are absolutely one,” he told reporters on Thursday.
But even after the PM spoke on Wednesday, party leaders privately maintained that while the de-linking issue had been addressed by re-linking it, questions over the inclusion of Balochistan remain.
Though it was likely to have come up, there was no firm word whether Balochistan figured in the briefing Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon gave to Congress members who were to participate in the two-day Lok Sabha debate on the Prime Minster’s foreign visit. But other than P.C. Chako, the others — Union Minister Salman Khurshid, Manish Tewari, Sandeep Dikshit and Sanjay Nirupam — did not get to speak for lack of time.