A day after the Congress top brass backed him on the India-Pakistan joint statement, a confident Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said his government has “relevant answers” for the critics of the declaration signed by the two countries at Sharm-el Sheikh in Egypt on July 16.
The joint statement has come under severe attack from the opposition for de-linking terrorism with the composite dialogue between the two countries and including, for the first time, the ethnic unrest in Pakistan’s Balochistan province as a subject of bilateral talks. The Congress chose to remain silent, prompting speculations that the party and the government were not united on the issue.
“I am quite confident we have all the relevant answers,” Singh said hours after he secured the support of the Congress leadership at a meeting at his residence on Friday night. Singh also dismissed as “media creation” the perception of differences between the government and the Congress on the issue.
Speaking on the sidelines of a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the PM was economical with words. “It will be inappropriate for me to comment on it pending a debate in Parliament, which will discuss the foreign policy issue in a few days from now.”
Singh is likely to intervene in the debate in Parliament on July 29 and Congress MPs, who will take the floor, will be briefed.
But in the run up to it, Singh’s back-team is already busy allaying apprehensions of a climbdown by stressing there is no question of resuming dialogue with Islamabad until it delivers on its assurance of tackling terror.
The party’s endorsement of the Indo-Pakistan joint statement came after the prime minister met the Congress leadership half way by explaining to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other top party leaders on Friday night how the declaration did not undermine the country’s interest.
Sonia Gandhi is expected to touch on the issue when she addresses her MPs at the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting on July 30.
Her statement would provide the basis of the Congress party’s public support to PM Manmohan Singh’s new initiative on Pakistan.
The Congress party has also developed a strategy to counter the opposition charge that the government capitulated before Pakistan.