The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rajya Sabha seal on war protest

New Delhi, April 9: The Vajpayee government, which persistently refused to condemn the war on Iraq, has finally given in when it really does not matter. Saddam Hussein’s regime is anyway on the run.

The Rajya Sabha this afternoon passed the same resolution deploring the US-led strike on Iraq that was passed in the Lok Sabha yesterday.

Foreign minister Yashwant Sinha said at the end of the discussion on Iraq that India had not come across any evidence to believe that Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction or had exported terrorism. “Therefore, we differed with many other countries on this particular issue,” he said. He thanked all members for sinking differences and agreeing to a unanimous resolution.

“When it comes to national interest, when it comes to important issues like Iraq, we have the genius to demonstrate our wisdom and our unity,” he said.

Ironically, it was the government’s refusal to “condemn” the war that delayed the resolution the Opposition had wanted.

The government had argued there was no need to use strong language at a time when the entire world, including Islamic nations, was divided on the issue. But it shifted its stand, realising that the public mood in India was anti-US.

Congress leader K. Natwar Singh had earlier slammed the government for its “inconsistent” foreign policy and criticised Sinha’s remarks about a “pre-emptive” strike on Pakistan. Singh today asked whether Sinha had been justifying the strike on Iraq.

Sinha said he had not justified the war. He was asked by reporters if possessing weapons of mass destruction, exporting cross border terrorism and having an undemocratic set up would make Pakistan a more appropriate target than Iraq. “We know from experience, we know on the basis of evidence, that Pakistan does not fall in the same category as Iraq. It is in a much worse category. And therefore, it was in that context, that this reply was given by me that if these are the criteria, then Pakistan is a fitter case,” Sinha explained.

“I am quite sure nobody in this House will disagree with me when I say that I genuinely believe if the possession of WMD, absence of democracy and export of terrorism are the criteria, then Pakistan should be on top of the list,” the minister explained.

During the discussion, some members also wanted the government’s reaction to US secretary of state Colin Powell’s reported remark that after the US was done with Iraq, it would turn its attention to the India-Pakistan conflict.

Sinha explained that when he was asked to comment on this by reporters, he had made it clear that the only issue India was discussing with the international community was cross-border terrorism.

“But let me be very clear that under the Simla Agreement India and Pakistan will deal with their problems bilaterally, there will be no interference by any other country in this,” Sinha said.

He also asked members not to overreact to every remark made by the US leaders. “After all, we are a country of one billion people, we should show the confidence that comes from this strength. Remember we will not and cannot be pushed around,'' he said.

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