Singh does a Vajpayee to counter BJP

I need not take lessons from National Democratic Alliance on Pak affairs

Attempting to carry forward the legacy of his predecessor A B Vajpayee, Singh effectively silenced the BJP leaders in Lok Sabha after what was billed as a spirited reply to the charges of “sell-out” made against him over the controversial Indo-Pak joint statement.

The joint statement made on July 16 after the prime ministers of the two neighbours met in Egypt, had referred to delinking terror from dialogue as well as a reference to Balochistan evoking strong reaction from different quarters.

Taking the Vajpayee line that “you cannot change the neighbours,”  Singh almost completely treaded the path that the BJP veteran travelled  during the latter’s six-year rule. Singh so disarmed the BJP leaders that at the end of the 45-minute speech, no BJP leader was asking clarifications on the joint statement, on which the opening speaker, former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha spoke.

All that the lone opposition MP –– BJP’s Sushma Swaraj –– managed to ask was on climate change, not on the main issue of Indo-Pak relations.

Singh drew heavily from the diplomacy that Vajpayee practised to further relations with Pakistan, beginning from the 1999 Lahore visit (“Vajpayee took a decision of political courage to visit Lahore”) and ending with the 2004 visit to Islamabad, where a joint statement was released.

The prime minister cleverly used his speech to draw a parallel between him and Vajpayee on the need to restart dialogue with the troubled neighbour. After Vajpayee’s historic Lahore visit, the Singh said, Kargil war happened followed by the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar. “Yet, he invited General Musharraf to Agra and again tried to make peace. The nation witnessed the terrible attack on Parliament in 2001.”

Praising Vajpayee, Singh remarked, “but, to his great credit, Vajpayee was not deterred, as a statesman should not be”, and referred to the 2004 joint statement which  “set out a vision for a cooperative relationship”.

He added: “I must remind the House that opposition parties supported these bold steps. I, for one, share Vajpayee’s vision, and I have also felt his frustration in dealing with Pakistan.”

These references made the BJP answerless to the prime minister who went on to say that he “need not take lessons from National Democratic Alliance”. He did not lose the opportunity to tell the Opposition that he has scored over the then NDA government that for the first time ever Pakistan formally briefed India on the results of an investigation into a terrorist attack on India. “It has never happened before and I repeat this is the first time. It is also the first time that they have admitted that their nationals and a terrorist organisation based in Pakistan carried out a ghastly terrorist act in India.” He was quick to add that NDA was never able to get Pakistan to admit what it has admitted now.

Singh perhaps deliberately downplayed the Balochistan issue, the reference to which triggered massive reaction from various quarters within India and Pakistan. He did not throw much light on it except denying the Pakistani perception that New Delhi fuelled insurgency in the volatile western region of Pakistan and that “ours is an open book.” He added that no dossier on Balochistan has been given to him by Pakistan.

Singh also showed no signs that his own party did not back him openly for about eight days after Egypt. The treasury benches, however, did more than bring cheer on Singh’s face as they repeatedly thumped desks to applaud his many comments.

DH News Service

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