The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Vajpayee sidesteps Pervez talks bait

New Delhi, March 2: India today categorically rejected Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s latest offer for resuming talks and made it clear that it would continue to exert pressure to expose the “media-savvy” general.

Delhi feels Musharraf does not intend stopping cross-border terrorism and normalising bilateral relations. He is only trying to ease the pressure he seems to be facing from both the international community and his domestic constituency.

In an interview with a private Indian TV channel, Musharraf offered to resume dialogue with Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee to iron out differences, including the dispute over Kashmir. The offer found no takers in Delhi, with foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna saying: “Pakistan has to be judged not through facile statements in the media but actions on the ground.”

He made it clear that “Pakistan has to fulfil its international obligation to end cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and dismantle its terror apparatus against India” before the leadership in Delhi could think of returning to the talks table.

Musharraf’s offer comes in the wake of reports splashed in the Pakistani media that Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists based in the country have declared their intention to assassinate key Indian leaders, including Vajpayee and his deputy L.K. Advani.

The reports are a clear proof that terror groups like the Lashkar, which Musharraf claims to have banned, are active and continue to receive support from the Pakistani establishment.

Sarna said Musharraf has chosen to “repeat his time-worn, trite and hackneyed position that try (sic) to mask Pakistan’s real intentions and designs”. India believes he wants to ease the pressure by entering into a dialogue with Delhi while telling hardliners in his country that he has made no compromise on Kashmir.

But having burnt his fingers once — by inviting him for the Agra Summit in May 2001 — Vajpayee seems in no mood to entertain the general.

Musharraf rejected the Indian charge that Pakistan was sponsoring cross-border terrorism and repeated Islamabad’s well-known position that people in Kashmir were “freedom fighters”. He denied that Dawood Ibrahim and other most-wanted criminals of India were hiding in Pakistan.

He also tried to justify his decision to raise the Kashmir issue at the Non-Aligned Movement summit, saying no Pakistani leader could be seen as “going soft” on Kashmir.

He acknowledged that the dispute was mentioned in the Simla Agreement of 1972, but did not suggest that he was willing to treat the issue as a “bilateral” one in the spirit of the accord. Less than a week ago, Musharraf not only raised the issue at the multilateral forum in Kuala Lumpur, but also sought Nam’s intervention.

The Pakistani President said in the interview that he was not “unifocal”, meaning not obsessed with Kashmir. But the Indian establishment was quick to point out that barring Kashmir, there was little that Musharraf spoke of. “In the entire interview, he proved that he was precisely that,” Sarna said.

The spokesman added that Musharraf’s posture of being the misunderstood party was “disquieting” because it indicated that he had “no intention” of changing his policies and responding to India’s legitimate demand that Pakistan make a “credible, transparent, visible and verifiable move to end cross-border terrorism”.

Email This Page