Sonia backs PM on joint statement

We support resumption of dialogue process with Pakistan: Congress president

Sonia backs PM on joint statement


Sonia Gandhi(L) and Manmohan Singh

A day after the prime minister told the Lok Sabha (LS) that the joint statement did not dilute India’s stand on the resumption of composite dialogue with Pakistan, Sonia reiterated that the Congress’ position on the issue of parleys with the western neighbour too remained unchanged. “We support the resumption of the dialogue process with Pakistan, but only after it has demonstrated its seriousness to bring the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai to justice and to prevent its territory from being used to launch terror attacks on any part of our country,” she told a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP).

“These are imperatives for restoring confidence and building an environment conducive to any meaningful dialogue,” she said. Sonia told the party MPs that none should be in doubt on its position vis-à-vis Pakistan as it remained unchanged.

Rahul blames media

All India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary Rahul Gandhi too told journalists later that the views of the government and the party were “absolutely one” on the Sharm-El-Sheikh statement. He blamed the media for creating an impression that the party and the government differed on the issue.

The controversial Indo-Pak joint statement was issued after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in the Egyptian city of Sharm-El-Sheikh on July 16 last. The joint statement drew flak from the BJP and other Opposition parties as it de-linked the composite dialogue between the two countries and Islamabad’s actions against terrorists based in that country.

A section of the Congress and other constituents of the ruling UPA too had reservations about the statement, which allegedly reflected a climb-down from New Delhi’s post 26/11 position.

The composite dialogue between the two neighbours was started in February 2004. But New Delhi had suspended the process in the wake of the 26/11 attacks, stating that it would not be resumed unless Islamabad brought the masterminds and perpetrators of the attacks to justice and dismantled all terrorist facilities in its territory.

New Delhi’s post 26/11 diplomatic offensive against Islamabad helped the UPA government get rid of the soft-on-terror slur and is believed to have given dividends to the Congress in the LS elections. After the Sharm-El-Sheikh statement, some Congress leaders reportedly raised questions as to why the government softened its tone on talks with Pakistan ahead of the crucial Assembly elections in Maharashtra.

The Congress did not even officially welcome the Indo-Pak joint statement till the prime minister explained it to the party’s top brass in a meeting chaired by Sonia Gandhi on July 24 last.

After the CPP meeting on Thursday, AICC General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi said the Congress endorsed the prime minister’s statement.

DH News Service

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