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PM slams Advani, denies US pressure for India-Pakistan talks

New Delhi, March 3 (IANS) In a sharp verbal duel in parliament over last week’s talks between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday rejected Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani’s charge that the government re-engaged with Pakistan under US pressure.

Advani launched a strong attack on the government’s foreign policy and asked why US President Barack Obama was interfering in India-Pakistan disputes.

He also questioned the government’s initiative in hosting talks between foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan in New Delhi, saying it led to nothing but ‘a self-inflicted insult.’

‘The new US President Barack Obama has said again and again that he will do everything to solve the Indo-Pak problems,’ Advani said in during a debate on the motion of thanks to president’s address.

‘Before Obama, the US policy was that the US will not interfere in the matter unless India and Pakistan both agree to it,’ said Advani.

‘I want the prime minister to tell parliament what secret or other talks have taken place between India and Pakistan. If there are any secret talks happening on Kashmir between India and US, it will have serious consequences,’ said Advani.

‘Some 700 terrorists are ready to infiltrate into India. The terrorism infrastructure in Pakistan is still in place,’ he pointed out.

In an unusually combative manner, the mild-mannered Manmohan Singh hit back and intervened twice during the debate, accusing Advani of trying to create a divide between India and the US.

He trashed Advani’s charges that India was talking to Pakistan under US pressure and denied his government was entering into a secret deal with Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir.

‘I feel sorry. Whatever is being attributed to Obama is not true. There is no change in US policy on India and Pakistan. There is no change in US policy towards India,’ Singh said.

Advani also referred to a Newsweek report, which quoted Indian and US sources as saying that India and Pakistan have restarted ‘secret back-channel talks’ over Kashmir, and asked the prime minister for an explanation.

When Advani accused him of not taking parliament into confidence over the alleged secret talks, Manmohan Singh said: ‘How many times did Jaswantji (who was external affairs minister in the NDA government) talk with US government representatives? How many times you informed the house? Why are you expecting me to answer hypothetical questions?’

Advani accused the Manmohan Singh-led government for its recent ‘shabby approach’ towards India-Pakistan talks.

He contended that Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir snubbed his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao by dismissing evidence presented by India against Hafiz Saeed, the suspected mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, as ‘literature, not evidence’.

Advani also pointed out that Bashir had said Pakistan did not want India to ‘lecture’ it to ‘do this or that’ and rejected further ‘cosmetic engagements’ in response to India describing the talks as ‘constructive’.

The BJP leader pointed out that External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s statement was not clear on whether dialogue is linked or de-linked with Pakistan abandoning terrorism.

‘Is dialogue linked with Pakistan’s abandoning terrorism, or have the two been de-linked as clearly said by our PM at Sharm el-Sheikh? In that statement, at least, there was clarity. In this latest one, there is nothing but contradictions and obfuscation.’

In a blog written ahead of the talks, the BJP veteran had asserted that the Indian government’s U-turn on dialogue with Pakistan appeared to be the upshot of ‘Washington’s nudge’.

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