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Cong nod to Atal line in China

New Delhi, June 30: Four days after reserving its comments, the Congress has endorsed the position Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee adopted on Tibet and Sikkim during his China trip last week.

“We have studied the India-China joint declaration in some detail. We think what has been agreed on Tibet and Sikkim is broadly acceptable to us so far,” Congress chief spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy said.

Reddy was speaking after a meeting of the party’s polit-ical affairs committee. The Prime Minister’s visit reportedly came up for discussion at the meeting.

The spokesman had made a suo motu statement on the subject last week that raised doubts and yet reserved official comment on the joint declaration.

But today Reddy said what had been agreed to during Vajpayee’s visit was in line with the normalisation of bilateral ties which Rajiv Gandhi had begun on his 1988 visit and which was taken forward by another Congress Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao during his 1993 visit.

Reddy said the Congress wanted details from the Prime Minister about his discussions with Chinese leaders, especially regarding Beijing’s position on Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism and its supply of weapons of mass destruction to Islamabad. Congress foreign affairs department chief Natwar Singh said the clarifications would be sought in Parliament.

Natwar expanded the scope of queries. “We would also like to know from the Prime Minister whether he had taken up the Iraq issue, including the American request to New Delhi to send a stabilisation force to Iraq, with the Chinese leadership as China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council,” he said.

Natwar said if Vajpayee had failed to do so, it was a major diplomatic lapse. If he had spoken on the topic, he should share the details with Parliament, Natwar added.

The Congress political affairs committee also deliberated on the position the party should adopt on various bills in Parliament during the monsoon session.

Reddy welcomed the move to move a Lokpal legislation that would include the Prime Minister in its purview.

The spokesman said the Congress would not support the IM(DT) repeal bill. Nor would the party entertain the VHP demand for legislation to resolve the Ayodhya dispute.

He said the Congress had not yet taken a final view on the amendment bill on the anti-defection law or the bill on downsizing ministries. Both bills are before parliamentary standing committees at present.

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