New Delhi, Jan. 21: India does not consider Pakistan to be a democracy. But it thinks China is one. And so are Myanmar, Bhutan and the Maldives.
The three-day international parliamentary conference being organised from tomorrow by India to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its Parliament will have 170 delegates from 85 countries. But none from Pakistan.
“Pakistan has not been invited,” said host and Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi. “Member countries of the Commonwealth and the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) have been invited to the conference. Pakistan is not a member,” he said.
Moreover, memories of December 13, 2001, when the venue of the international conference was attacked by terrorists, are fresh in every Indian’s mind. Delhi had accused Pakistan of masterminding the strike on Parliament.
Joshi, who recently visited China on an official tour, announced that one of the biggest delegations to the conference would be from there. All the other South Asian nations have been invited; Myanmar, too.
“We have invited Myanmar, but I don’t know whether they will send anyone,” Joshi said.
But faced with a barrage of questions on the justification of inviting Myanmar, which is ruled by a military junta, the Speaker changed his stand. “I am not sure whether it has been invited. I have to check,” he said.
“The stress of the three-day conference will be on strengthening democracy all over the world to combat the threat of terrorism,” the Speaker added.
Distinguished parliamentarians from across the world will attend the conference.
“Such interaction will help further consolidate democracy all over the world so that forces that are trying to destroy the foundations of open society are isolated and eliminated,” the Speaker added.
“The greatest threat to democracy and civilisation today is from terrorism. As opinion-makers, parliamentarians have an important role to play in building a consensus against terrorists and their collaborators and in lending the much needed support in rooting out the evil of terrorism.”
Irrespective of the countries that figure on the list of invitees, one thing is certain: it’s a party to which Pakistan is not welcome. In fact, much of what India is trying to achieve or the signal it wants to send out is directed against Islamabad.
“The Parliament has become one of the main targets of terrorists. It is necessary that parliamentarians from different parts of the world raise their voice unitedly against the menace,” Joshi said, leaving little doubt about which direction he was pointing at.
Among the four themes to be discussed by delegates, “Combating Terrorism” tops the list. “Parliamentary Practices and Procedures: Need for Reforms to Secure Greater Executive Accountability”, “Parliament as a Vehicle of Social Change” and “Parliament in the Era of Globalisation and Liberalisation” are the other three themes.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam will address the delegates after inaugurating the conference tomorrow morning. So will Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.
Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant will deliver the keynote address on “Combating Terrorism” after which delegates will participate in the discussion.
Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi will give a lecture on “Parliamentary Practices and Procedures: Need for Reforms to Secure Greater Executive Accountability”. Information and technology minister Pramod Mahajan will speak on “Parliament in the Era of Globalisation and Liberalisation”.
Joshi will inaugurate an exhibition on the “Golden Jubilee of Parliament of India” in the new sprawling library building. Six publications highlighting the functioning and achievements of the Parliament in the last 50 years will be released at the inaugural function.