Ruling out war as an option, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday reinforced Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's position that there was no alternative but to keep talking to Pakistan but made it clear that there was no surrender by the government on the issue of combating cross-border terrorism.
"Neither have we succumbed to terrorism nor will we stop talking," Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha during a debate on issues arising from the prime minister's foreign visits, including his trip to Egypt where he met Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. Action on terror was independent of any composite dialogue, he asserted.
"The NDA did it. The UPA did it. This is the way the world of diplomacy moves," Mukherjee said while reminding parliament that over the last 10 years, governments across the political spectrum in India kept talking to Pakistan despite brief disruptions after terrorist attacks.
"We can't erase Pakistan. It's going to exist. War is no solution," Mukherjee said while underlining the importance of keeping talks going with Pakistan.
Mukherjee, who was foreign minister when the Mumbai attacks took place, clarified that talking did not mean the resumption of a full-fledged dialogue.
"Keeping channels open does not mean surrendering our position on terrorism," Mukherjee stressed, adding that Pakistan must act credibly and verifiably to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure operating from it's soil.
During his intervention in the debate Wednesday, Manmohan Singh Wednesday asserted that there was no dilution or rupture of national consensus on terrorism emanating from Pakistan but made it clear that the only alternative was to continue the engagement with Islamabad.
Seeking to allay apprehensions over his controversial move to relink action on terrorism from the composite dialogue process as contained in the India-Pakistan joint statement issued in Egypt July 16, the prime minister stressed that bilateral engagement or dialogue process can't move forward if terrorist attacks continue from across the border.
He also defended the inclusion of Balochistan in the July 16 India-Pakistan joint statement saying a unilateral reference does not mean giving credibility to Pakistan's allegations of any Indian role in unrest in Pakistan's southwest province.
"We have no role to play in Balochistan," he said.