By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent
Sec State Clinton and Indiaâ€™s FM Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna smile during signing ceremony in New Delhi July 20, 2009.
NEW DELHI: Ironically, though the Indo-Pak joint statement issued last week after a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani has received a favorable response in most quarters, at home, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and few others have not welcomed it. The joint statement was issued after the two prime ministers held talks on sidelines of the Non-alignment Movement (NAM) Summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt (July 16).
The statement described the two prime ministersâ€™ meeting as â€œcordial and constructive.â€ â€œBoth leaders agreed that terrorism is the main threat to both countries. Both leaders affirmed their resolve to fight terrorism and to cooperate with each other to this end,â€ according to the statement. While Singh â€œreiterated the need to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice,â€ Gilani â€œassured that Pakistan will do everything in its power in this regard.â€ â€œBoth leaders agreed that the two countries will share real time, credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats,â€ it was stated. The two prime ministers â€œrecognized that dialogue is the only way forward,â€ and that â€œaction on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and these should not be bracketed.â€ They agreed that the â€œreal challenge is development and elimination of poverty,â€ â€œto work to create an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidenceâ€ and â€œreaffirmed their intention to promote regional cooperation.â€ The joint statement also said that â€œforeign secretaries should meet as often as necessary and report to the foreign ministers who will be meeting on sidelines of the forthcoming UN General Assembly.â€
Briefing the Lok Sabha (July 17) on his meeting with Gilani, Singh said: â€œWe discussed present condition of India-Pakistan relations, its future potential and steps that are necessary to enable us to realize the potential.â€ â€œIt has been and remains our consistent position that starting point of any meaningful dialogue with Pakistan is a fulfillment of their commitment, in letter and spirit, not to allow their territory to be used in any manner for terrorist activities against India,â€ Singh stated. Gilani â€œassuredâ€ him that â€œPakistan will do everything in its power to bring perpetrators of Mumbai attacks to justice,â€ and â€œthere is consensus in Pakistan against activities of terrorist groups,â€ Singh said. â€œAs the joint statement says, action on terrorism should not be linked to composite dialogue process, and therefore cannot await other developments,â€ Singh said. With India keen to â€œrealize the vision of a stable and prosperous South Asia living in peace and amity,â€ Singh said: â€œWe are willing to go more than half way provided Pakistan creates the conditions for a meaningful dialogue. I hope that there is forward movement in the coming months.â€
Expressing strong opposition against delinking of terrorism from resumption of composite dialogue process, the BJP legislators staged a walkout from Lok Sabha soon after Singh had read out his statement. â€œYou have delinked terrorism and the composite dialogue. Why have you taken seven months to decide on this?â€ asked BJP leader L.K. Advani. â€œIf terrorism is set aside, then how does the dialogue become composite? It ceases to be composite as a composite dialogue has to be all-pervasive,â€ Sushma Swaraj (BJP) said.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who served earlier as foreign minister, said: â€œIf the opposition wants, we can have a structured discussion. There is no provision in this house to seek clarification from the prime minister on his statement.â€
â€œWe will have a structured debate, but as a mark of protest I would like my party to walk out to this capitulation,â€ Advani said and led his party colleagues out of Lok Sabha.
Outside the Parliament, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said: â€œThis step by India has come as a shock. It is sheer betrayal and U-turn by the government. They are buckling under international pressure.â€
Initially, the Congress declined to comment on the joint statement. But later, the party said that there was no question of not supporting it or backing out. â€œThere is no occasion for such a question. We are not required to endorse it after the PMâ€™s statement. His statement leaves no scope for any doubt and there was no question of not supporting it or backing out,â€ Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said (July 20).
Welcoming the joint statement, Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said in Srinagar: â€œThe cordial meeting between the two Prime Ministers has become historical as both countries have agreed to delink terrorism from Indo-Pak dialogue.â€ Several Kashmiri separatist leaders, however, said that Singh-Gilani meeting was â€œinconclusiveâ€ without participation of Kashmiris.
Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP), the opposition in J&K, expressed â€œdisappointmentâ€ with the statement. â€œWe are concerned over the omission of Jammu and Kashmir from the joint declaration and ambiguity about resumption of composite dialogue. This has caused understandable disappointment among the people of the state who looked up to the summit with considerable hope,â€ PDP leader and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said. Reiterating United Statesâ€™ support for dialogue between India and Pakistan, the visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week: â€œThis dialogue between India and Pakistan is certainly one that could only be pursued with the agreement and commitment of the two countries and the leaders, but of course the United States is very supportive.â€ Earlier, Robert O. Blake, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia said in Washington: â€œIndia and Pakistan face common challenge and we will support continuing dialogue to find joint solutions to counter terrorism and to promote regional stabilityâ€ (July 16).