“Trust, but verify”. With these words, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh summed up his approach towards Pakistan in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, stressing that dialogue is the only way out “unless we want to go to war”.
Former US President Ronald Reagan had famously used the same phrase to defend his moving closer to the erstwhile USSR, marking the beginning of the end of the Cold War.
Singh used the phrase many times to explain the July 16 joint statement that delinks Paki-stan’s action against terrorism from the composite dialogue between the two countries.
The PM explained his position after the Opposition accused him of reversing India’s position that Pakistan acting against terror networks should be a pre-condition for dialogue.
“This (interpretation) is not correct … (Rooting out terror) is an absolute and compelling imperative that cannot be dependent on resumption of the composite dialogue,” he said.
Unless Pakistan acts, there can be no dialogue, he added.
He said he’d already made it clear to the Pakistani leadership that “another attack of this kind will put an intolerable strain on our relationship”.
The PM also indicated that if India and Pakistan did not talk, it may open the possibility of a third party intervention.
Not in the least defensive about the joint statement, Singh explained that a 34-page dossier handed over by Islamabad two days ahead of his meeting with counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani had given ample verification that Pakistan was acting against terrorists. “It showed progress though not adequate progress.”
The PM’s remark confirmed an HT report of July 27 that the dossier had emboldened him to sign the statement.
The dossier contained a detailed brief on the action taken by Pakistan. “It is the first time they have admitted that their nationals and a terrorist organisation based in Pakistan carried out the ghastly terrorist act in India,” Singh said.
“This is far more than the NDA government was ever able to extract from Pakistan… despite their tall talk,” he said, departing from the prepared text to respond to BJP leader Yashwant Sinha’s contention that he had failed to secure India’s national interest.
Singh also took the sting out of the BJP’s criticism by pointing out that his Pakistan policy was a continuation of what A.B. Vajpayee had started as PM. “I for one share Vajpayee’s vision… I have also felt his frustration in dealing with Pakistan,” he said, recalling his predecessor’s 2004 visit to Islamabad after Kargil, Kandahar and the failure of the Agra summit between the two countries.
Singh denied claims emanating from Pakistan that he was given a dossier on India’s activities in Balochistan. “I categorically say no such dossier was given to me,” he said.
The PM said India’s conduct was an “open book” and he was willing to discuss all issues as “we know we are doing nothing wrong. If Pakistan has any evidence… we are willing to look at it as we have nothing to hide”.
Singh said it was in Pakistan’s interest as much as India’s to make peace. “Pakistan must defeat terrorism before being consumed by it,” he said.