July 2001 News

Killing innocents no jihad: PM

24 July 2001
The Asian Age

New Delhi: Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Tuesday opened the door wide for talks with Pakistan. “Our bilateral engagement with Pakistan will continue, we will continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation,” he informed Parliament with the qualifying clause that his government will “persist with our efforts to convince Pakistan that our bilateral cooperation should not be held hostage to the resolution of any one issue.” India’s concerns with cross-border terrorism “will have to find place in any document that future negotiations endeavour to conclude,” Mr Vajpayee asserted in a statement to both Houses of Parliament. He said that while a joint document in Agra could not be concluded, “we did achieve a degree of understanding,” adding that the government will “build on this to further increase the areas of agreement.” The Prime Minister said Pakistan’s “insistence on the settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir issue as a precondition for normalisation of relations” and its reluctance to “acknowledge and address” cross-border terrorism had led to the failure of the Agra summit. He said progress had been made in bridging the initial differences in a draft joint document. Mr Vajpayee said this included in it a future dialogue process on all issues, including meetings at official, ministerial and summit levels. He also said that “we” had made proposals addressing the issues of peace and security, including nuclear and conventional CBMs, Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism amongst other issues before it was finally abandoned because of Pakistan’s intransigence. In a diplomatic statement that sought to keep the door for negotiations wide open, Mr Vajpayee pinpointed Pakistan’s “refusal to end cross-border terrorism as the main hurdle in the creation of a conducive atmosphere.” He chose to stay out of the controversy on the status of Jammu and Kashmir as a “core issue,” stating that “no worthwhile purpose could be served” by a debate on this. Instead he sought to focus attention on “terrorism and violence in the state which is exported from across the borders.” The Prime Minister reiterated the government’s determination to counter terrorism and violence “until it is decisively crushed.” Mr Vajpayee said the daily killing of innocent men, women and children could not be “glorified as jihad or any kind of political movement.” He said while he had focused on terrorism, Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf had focused “almost exclusively” on Jammu and Kashmir. Mr Vajpayee kept emphasising his stress at the summit on creating an all- round environment for peace. The Prime Minister said Pakistan has been seeking a solution to Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. He said the desire of the people was “to live in peace, security and freedom.” According to Mr Vajpayee, “most of the Kashmiris” have their elected representatives while the government was also willing to listen to other streams of Kashmiri opinion. Without specifically stating the government view on talks with the Hurriyat Conference, he said, “It is in this spirit that we had offered to talk to the representatives of the APHC.” Mr Vajpayee, in an obvious response to Gen. Musharraf’s press conference, said the government was not seeking to score debating points. “We will engage in quiet, serious diplomacy,” he said. He promised that the government would vigorously pursue a relationship of peace, friendship and cooperation. Significantly, the Prime Minister said the government remains committed to the CBMs announced by it prior to Gen. Musharraf’s visit. Mr Vajpayee said the effort at Agra was to build on the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration by strengthening the broad-based framework of dialogue. He did not reject the Agra summit altogether, as was the initial response of the ministry of external affairs after the talks had broken down. The Prime Minister confirmed that he had accepted Gen. Musharraf’s invitation to visit Pakistan but did not indicate a date. He said external affairs minister Jaswant Singh had also accepted an invitation from the Pakistan foreign minister. “Thus, our bilateral engagement with Pakistan will continue,” he said.


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