Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has received support from the most unexpected quarters — the Congress — on the outcome of his China visit, though opinion within the Sangh Parivar is divided. In what is clearly a boost, the main opposition party announced on Monday its “broad acceptance” of the joint declaration signed in Beijing.
“We have studied in some detail the prime minister’s visit and the joint declaration. What has been agreed so far on Tibet and Sikkim is broadly acceptable to our party,” Congress spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy told the media after a meeting of the party’s political affairs committee.
The Congress’s foreign policy experts, it is learnt, have been studying the India-China joint declaration at length over the past few days. They think that the Vajpayee regime made no departure from the previous formulations on Tibet while managing a “modest forward movement” on Sikkim.
However, when the matter comes up in Parliament, the Congress will seek clarifications from Vajpayee on whether he managed to elicit a response from China on cross-border terrorism during his talks in Beijing.
“We would also like to know,” Reddy said, “whether the question of the alleged supply of nuclear material by China to Pakistan figured in the talks.”
The Congress spokesman said the process of normalisation of relations with China began with Rajiv Gandhi's historic 1988 visit and was built upon by P.V. Narasimha Rao, 10 years ago. Reddy did not go into further details, but a senior Congress leader expressed surprise at the NDA government’s emphasis on Vajpayee’s 1979 visit to China as foreign minister.
“That visit was a fiasco as China invaded Vietnam while he was still there. They should have had the grace to acknowledge Rajiv Gandhi’s path-breaking visit which actually started the normalisation process,” Reddy said.