The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Venkaiah lunch on terror leaves out Pakistan

New Delhi, Jan. 8: The BJP got into Track Two gear today as its president M. Venkaiah Naidu hosted a luncheon for the ambassadors and high commissioners of 69 countries to try and evolve an international consensus against terrorism.

Pakistan was left out as, according to BJP spokesman Sunil Shastri, “Our relations with Pakistan will improve only if it stops cross-border terrorism. Unless and until the country stops aiding and abetting cross-border terrorism, we will not entertain Pakistan diplomats.”

Speaking informally to the press, Naidu said the objective of the meet was to “reach out to everyone in keeping with our Delhi sankalp” (pledge undertaken in last September’s national council) and ask the international representatives to spread the word about an international youth conference on terrorism the BJP’s youth wing planned to hold in the capital on February 11 and 12.

The idea, he said, was to “invite the young leaders of political parties around the world to discuss ways and means of checking the spread of terrorist activities”.

In his introductory remarks — a copy of which was given to the press — the BJP chief said: “It is the young leaders who will inherit tomorrow’s world. They must take a hard look at this dreaded phenomenon and come up with a resolve to eliminate this threat so that future generations may live in a peaceful world.”

He said the other idea was to “make everyone understand the BJP and tell them that though the BJP had its ideology, programmes and policies, we have accepted the NDA’s common agenda”. Naidu said he was stepping up efforts to establish a party-to-party relationship with political entities in other countries.

Barring Pakistan, all the neighbouring countries were invited for the lunch as also the other Islamic countries, including Iraq. The dominant view in the BJP was that in case the US-led forces struck Iraq, the government must remain neutral and, “if necessary”, support Iraq.

“Today it is Iraq, tomorrow it could be India if it incurred the US’ wrath for saying or doing something not entirely to its liking. So our response has to be a carefully considered one,” said a senior functionary.

However, neither the US ambassador nor the UK high commissioner — the two representatives who ultimately mattered — turned up. They deputed others on their behalf.

Although the luncheon was hosted at the BJP headquarters, the food came from Maurya Sheraton and not Andhra Bhavan or the party’s registered caterer as is the practice. In deference to the “international palate”, the cuisine was Continental “without the usual mirch-masala”, as a representative of the party’s intellectual cell put it.

RSS notice on Cong

The Delhi unit of the RSS has served a legal notice on Congress spokesman Anand Sharma for a statement he made on December 27, alleging that the Sangh had killed Mahatma Gandhi.

Sharma was asked to submit an unconditional written apology to the RSS’ “satisfaction” within 48 hours, failing which the party threatened to file a criminal complaint against him under Section 500 of the IPC.

Sharma said: “We have not received the notice. But as and when we do, we will reply appropriately. There is no question of tendering any apology.”

A press statement released by the RSS said the Congress spokesman had alleged that “the ideology of violence, hate and division encouraged by Sangh has nurtured an atmosphere of terrorism”. Sharma was also quoted as saying that “the first post-Independence terrorist act — Gandhi’s assassination — was committed by those who are associated with the Sangh parivar”.

The RSS’ case was that a government inquiry commission had proved that the charges levelled against the organisation in the Gandhi murder case were “totally false”.

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