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PM message mixes pat and punch

New Delhi, Nov. 26: Mixing restraint with civility, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today sent a letter of felicitation to his Pakistani counterpart, three days after his “appointment”. But implicit in the message was India’s signal that normal relations between the countries could be restored only if Pakistan matched words with action.

“I would like to convey, on behalf of my government and on my own behalf, our felicitations and best wishes to you on your appointment as Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” Vajpayee said in the message. He added: “Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest considerations.”

A similar letter was sent by foreign minister Yashwant Sinha to his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri.

Both the messages made no attempt at referring to any other issue — not even India’s commitment to “good neighbourly” relations with Pakistan.

Vajpayee’s choice of the word “appointment” is significant as an attempt to tell Islamabad that Delhi is aware of the fact that despite the new government, it is President Pervez Musharraf who will continue to call the shots and have the final say in policies concerning India.

What Vajpayee and Sinha suggested but did not say was left to foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna to explain. “India has always been in favour of dialogue with Pakistan, and for resolution of differences through bilateral discussions. In fact, India has in recent years, taken several initiatives in this direction,” Sarna said.

He added: “It is well known that the Pakistani military and related establishment has time and again scuttled attempts at productive dialogue. Sponsorship of terrorism directed against India has been a part of this attempt.”

Sarna was responding to questions on the new Pakistani foreign minister’s assertion that “normalising relations with India will be his top priority”.

“We will naturally need to wait and see its reflection on the ground,” the spokesman added.

Raising questions about Islamabad’s sincerity, Sarna said during the visit of the Sikh jatha to Pakistan’s Nankana Sahib on Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary, attempts were made by the intelligence agencies there to encourage “Khalistani elements” who had come from other countries and were known for their anti-India stand.

“The Sikh jatha from India was compelled to walk out from a function and General Musharraf had met a select group, once again of those known for their anti-Indian activities,” he said.

India’s scepticism about the recent Pakistani overtures stems from the fact that there has been little or no change on the ground reality, especially as far as infiltration across the Line of Control and violence in Jammu and Kashmir is concerned.

According to sources, the figures of both infiltration and terrorist incidents in the Valley have reached almost the same level as that on May 27 this year when Musharraf gave an assurance to the US of stopping infiltration permanently.

Figures with Indian officials indicate that while there were 1,403 incidents of violence in Jammu and Kashmir five months before the Pakistani President made the commitment, five months later it was 1,624. There have been 857 attacks on security forces in the past five months and 442 civilians have been killed.

South Block officials said the figures show a pattern of cyclic rise and fall in terrorist attacks and infiltration making it amply clear that they were being conducted with active co-operation from the Pakistani government.

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