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Atal fears temple strikes, sets Saarc term

Shimla, Dec. 1 (PTI): Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today accused Pakistan of trying to destabilise India’s economy through terrorism and said he could consider attending next month’s Saarc summit in Islamabad provided the neighbouring country put a halt to cross-border terrorism before the event.

“Our neighbour is perturbed with our progress and economic development. Terrorism is being used to destabilise our economy,” Vajpayee said.

Referring to the second terrorist attack this year on the Raghunath temple in Jammu, he said: “More temples can be targeted. We have information in this regard.”

Pakistan was trying to disrupt India’s progress, but Delhi knows how to deal with it, Vajpayee said. He asserted that the country would not be cowed down by terrorism and the government was determined to increase economic and industrial development and make the country self-reliant in defence. “We have to make ourselves strong.”

On the possibility of his attending the Saarc summit, the Prime Minster said: “A thought can be given to it if there is a complete halt to cross-border terrorism before the dates of the summit. What is the use of going to Pakistan for Saarc meeting when Pakistan is not prepared to talk on any issue except Kashmir'”

The Prime Minister said Kashmir was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and not something to be discussed during Saarc meetings. Islamabad did not act on recommendations regarding economic cooperation agreed on in previous Saarc meetings, he added.

Vajpayee said he did not see any change in Islamabad’s stand towards India or its Kashmir policy even after the installation of a new government under Prime Minister Mir Jafarullah Khan Jamali.

He said there had been some decline in terrorist infiltration from Pakistan but the question was by how much, adding there are no differences between the defence and external affairs ministries on the infiltration decline issue.

Vajpayee also asserted that differences within the BJP and the NDA over disinvestment of oil public sector units, BPCL and HPCL, and aluminium major Nalco would not deter his government from pushing ahead with economic reforms.

“Economic reforms are part of NDA election manifesto and minor differences of opinion on certain specific issues would not come in the way of reforms.”

The committee set up to review the progress of reforms has completed its task, the Prime Minister said, adding the reforms were on course.

Attacking the Congress for its “double standards”, he said the party criticised his government’s reforms but pursued the same policy in the states it ruled.

The reforms were started by the Congress and should be carried forward, Vajpayee said, adding: “Opinion on economic reforms should not be changed with elections.”

The Prime Minister claimed there was no shortage of foodgrain and prices had not gone up despite the drought in 14 states. This was nothing short of a miracle, he said.

Prices have been kept under control, foreign exchange reserves were buoyant, industrial production has increased and concrete steps are being taken to create employment opportunities, Vajpayee said.

Programmes like housing and highway construction were generating large-scale employment, he said while admitting there was a squeeze in government jobs.

Vajpayee also assured no such step would be taken based on the Kelkar Committee recommendations on tax reforms that would hit the common man.

Referring to the report, he said it was yet to be discussed but assured “no such step, which will hit the comon man will be taken.”

Abolition of all tax exemptions and standard deduction to the salaried class are among the committee’s recommendations.

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