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Atal matches Pervez, blast for blast

New York, Sept. 13: With the world adopting India’s long-standing agenda of the fight against terrorism, Atal Bihari Vajpayee today asked the General Assembly to take the next logical step: use the instruments of the UN to act against “states known to be sponsoring, sheltering, funding, arming and training terrorists”.

Addressing the General Assembly in Hindi, the Prime Minister said the UN’s Committee on Counter-Terrorism should move beyond compiling information to enforcing compliance by states of their commitments not to harbour or train terrorists.

The Prime Minister also turned the tables on those who have been crying wolf about an imminent nuclear war in South Asia, accusing Pakistan of using nuclear blackmail as an instrument of state terrorism.

“In our South Asian region, nuclear blackmail has emerged over the last few months as a new arrow in the quiver of state-sponsored terrorism. Dark threats were held out that actions by India to stamp out cross-border terrorism could provoke a nuclear war. To succumb to such blatant nuclear terrorism would mean forgetting the bitter lessons of the September 11 tragedy,” Vajpayee told world leaders gathered here.

He made it clear that while no one in India wants war, the country was determined to end cross-border terrorism “with all the means at our command. Let there be no doubt about it in any quarter”.

The Prime Minister appears to have been encouraged in making such an unequivocal statement by his meeting with President George W. Bush yesterday.

At that meeting, which took place a few hours after Musharraf attempted to portray violence in Kashmir as the result of a freedom struggle, Bush told the Prime Minister that there could be no alibis for terror. The US President later conveyed the same message to Musharraf at their bilateral meeting.

Vajpayee surprised delegates to the General Assembly by devoting more time than any Prime Minister in recent memory to Pakistan, rebutting Musharraf’s allegations of a massacre of Muslims in Gujarat and references to Hindu militancy elsewhere in the country.

“Yesterday, we heard yet another patently false and self-serving claim that in India, Muslims and other minorities are the target of Hindu extremists. With 150 million, India has the second largest Muslims population in the world, more than in Pakistan,” Vajpayee reminded world leaders. “We are proud of the multi-religious character of our society.”

Vajpayee accused Musharraf of “adjusting” voting and counting procedures and achieving constitutional authority by simply rewriting Pakistan’s constitution. The unexpectedly strong attack on Musharraf’s version of democracy is seen as a reply to the general’s very public campaign here throughout the week against the poll process in Jammu and Kashmir.

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