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Indo-Pak statement: PM sticks to his guns, Sonia backs him

india Updated: Jul 25, 2009 18:36 IST

Under attack over the Indo-Pak joint statement, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said the government has all the "relevant answers" to the questions raised over it and these will be spelt out by him in Parliament on July 29.

He also dismissed as "media creation" the reported difference of opinion between the government and Congress
party on the issue.

"I have made a statement in Parliament and Parliament is again going to discuss the issue. I will clarify," Singh told
reporters here when asked about the controversy over the Joint Statement which had made mention of Balochistan and delinked terrorism and holding of composite dialogue with Pakistan.

Singh refused to speak on the matter further, saying "pending a debate in Parliament, it is inappropriate to answer
any specific questions on the issue."

He, however, expressed confidence that "we have all the relevant answers."

Meanwhile, notwithstanding the voices of dissent within the party, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has endorsed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's initiative on Pakistan and has conveyed this to senior leaders and ministers, party sources said in New Delhi on Saturday.

The joint statement of the Prime Minister with his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in Egypt last week was discussed at the Congress' core committee meeting in New Delhi on Friday night.

According to the sources, Gandhi told the party leaders that the Congress should stand united on Manmohan Singh's initiative and that she endorsed it. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, assured that the government would have all the answers on the India-Pakistan statement.

Several senior ministers, including former external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, are said to be upset over the joint statement seeking to delink terrorism from the composite dialogue between the two countries.

"Some ministers are particularly unhappy over the inclusion of Balochistan in the joint statement," said a source. But party leaders have refused to go on record in view of the sensitivity of the issue.

The meeting was held at the prime minister's residence and was attended by Sonia Gandhi, Defence Minister AK Antony, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel, among others.

The Indo-Pak Joint Statement, issued after Singh's meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in
Sharm-el Sheikh on July 16, has come in for sharp attack over mention of Balochistan and India agreeing to delink dialogue from Pakistan's action against terrorism.

Responding to demands from the opposition, a discussion will be held on the issue in Parliament on July 29 during
which the Prime Minister will intervene.