A soldier pauses during the attack in Samba. (AFP)
New Delhi, Sept. 26: The Congress today held its nerve to back the Prime Minister’s decision to go ahead with the September 29 meeting with Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif, despite hostile public opinion and intense pressure piled by the BJP after the Jammu terror attacks.
Top sources said Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi gave the go-ahead, realising the attack was an obvious plot hatched by vested interests opposed to normalisation of bilateral ties.
Senior Congress leaders felt that calling off the much-awaited talks would yield little political or diplomatic gain and ran the risk of criticism on the domestic front.
The leaders pointed to the government’s “responsibility” to take steps to curb cross-border terror instead of getting into a sulk and argued that a meeting was necessary to even lodge a strong formal complaint.
“We know there are significant changes in the internal political dynamics of Pakistan and the democratic government there required support to push extremist elements to the margins. We, as a more mature country, must behave responsibly,” a leader said.
Giving the official line, Congress spokesperson Raj Babbar said: “We know terrorists don’t want talks; we won’t fall into their trap. All parties opposing talks should ponder why this terror strike happened. What kind of forces gain from this?
“We fully support our Prime Minister; he is right now on foreign soil and this is not the time to raise questions. We should have trust in the wisdom of our Prime Minister and foreign minister.”
Responding to queries on the Prime Minister’s compulsions, international pressure and Pakistan’s history of backing terror outfits, Babbar said: “Terrorism is a serious issue. But we must meet to convey our displeasure. Talks should not be viewed as a sign of weakness.
“We take decisions with full responsibility, not under any pressure. We should have patience. We can’t accept what terrorists want. The BJP is adopting a populist position on this issue but the Congress is a responsible party.”
The BJP had demanded that the Prime Minister call off the meeting. “There should be no talks with Pakistan unless there is a conducive environment, BJP president Rajnath Singh tweeted.
Congress communications chief Ajay Maken, in turn, tweeted: “The timing of today’s attack clearly indicates the people behind it do not want peace process. Does the BJP also want the same? These attacks are not incidental but a deliberate and diabolical attempt to derail peace.”
On the BJP’s strident posturing, Babbar said: “We don’t want to fight on this issue but didn’t we support Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he went to Lahore by bus after the Kargil conflict?”
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh was more critical. He tweeted: “Who are opposing peace and dialogue? Only militants, BJP, drawing room hawks and some hawkish elements in the media.”