Mandla (Madhya Pradesh), June 17: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today warned Pervez Musharraf against a repeat of Kargil but tempered his toughtalk by asserting that he would go on extending the hand of friendship irrespective of Pakistan’s not-so-friendly gestures.
Vajpayee’s warning was his first reaction to the Pakistan President’s reported remark that if the Kashmir issue is not resolved it could lead to another Kargil-like operation. “Musharraf is reminding about Kargil. After three losses, Pakistan is preparing to get defeated for the fourth time,” the Prime Minister said.
“It has not learnt any lesson. It has merely changed tactics. Killing innocent women and children cannot be civilised. It cannot be dubbed as a war of liberation.”
Vajpayee said Pakistan should not see his efforts at peace as signs of weakness. He recalled how Islamabad had sought the help of Bill Clinton, who was US President during the 1999 aggression, to work out a face-saving formula to end the conflict. “They made him (Clinton) call me up to save their jawans from getting killed,” he said. “We told Pakistan to take away bodybags.”
But after the iron fist, it was the peacemaker in him that took over as Vajpayee declared he would continue to extend gestures of reconciliation though Pakistan was still waging a “fourth war” in a clandestine manner.
“Hamne dosti ka hath badhaya hai magar woh larne ki aadat nahin chhorte hain (We have extended a hand of friendship, but they do not give up their habit of fighting),” the Prime Minister said, adding that he would persist with his peace efforts.
The Prime Minister told the sizeable tribal crowd that he has repeatedly conveyed to Pakistan that India is against an arms race as both countries are battling poverty. “It is a time to make peace. One cannot sleep on weapons. We need peace. It should be understood by all,” he said.
Turning to domestic issues, the Prime Minister challenged Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to substantiate the charge that his government had failed to provide employment to one crore people. “I challenge anyone to deny that,” he said.
Without naming Sonia, he said in politics, irresponsible charges should not be levelled and claimed that under his rule, the number of people living below the poverty line had come down. “Statistics do not lie. I challenge anyone to contest the figure,” he asserted.
Vajpayee’s meeting here was his first in election-bound Madhya Pradesh. He declared Uma Bharti as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate and lashed out at the Digvijay Singh regime for its failure to provide basic amenities like power and water.
Minutes before he arrived in Jabalpur and Mandla, it rained and Vajpayee, in characteristic style, tried to turn the welcome shower to advantage. He said he was planning to come around the 20th but was told there would be rain. “I came today and it rained,” he said in an obvious dig at Digvijay Singh who had earlier hinted at a link between drought and the Prime Minister’s bachelor status.