The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Internal security slugfest in House

New Delhi, Dec. 7: The BJP today alleged that Manmohan Singh's Srinagar statement to 'keep all options open on Jammu and Kashmir' was a 'permissive signal' for the escalation of terrorist activity in the Valley.

Initiating a discussion in the Rajya Sabha, BJP's Arun Shourie attacked the Congress-led Centre for its management of almost every aspect of internal security.

Charges were levelled against the six-month-old United Progressive Alliance government of 'ceding' territory to terrorist groups, funded by 'foreign' countries, and allowing these to run a parallel economy based on 'hawala' transactions and slush money.

Also piled on were charges of infiltration from Bangladesh, 'burgeoning' of 'madarsas' along the western and eastern borders that provided a training ground for terrorism, Left extremism and a 'soft' policy on Jammu and Kashmir.

Shourie's refrain was that internal security was 'too great an issue' for political parties to score brownie points.

Anand Sharma of the Congress countered that 'the hidden insinuations and barbs were not lost, especially those about alarming scenarios on internal security as if to give the impression that in six months the situation has deteriorated. This is not correct'.

Shourie sought to support his allegations with 'facts and figures' quoted from the reports of internal-security task forces, which the National Democratic Alliance regime had set up in the aftermath of the Kargil attacks.

But Sharma cited instances from the NDA government's tenure to counter virtually every charge of Shourie's.

When the BJP leader mentioned how the Hurriyat Conference stopped speaking to the Centre but made a 'public parade of talking to anyone from Pakistan', Sharma accused the Opposition party of 'convenient loss of memory'.

Shourie's reference was to Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's meeting with separatists on his recent Delhi visit. 'Can the Indian foreign secretary allow himself to speak to the representatives of a secessionist group when he visits Islamabad' the MP asked.

Sharma then recalled that Pervez Musharraf had tea with Hurriyat leaders at a reception hosted by the Pakistan high commissioner when the Pakistan President was in India during the NDA's tenure.

On Kashmir, Shourie juxtaposed former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao's declaration that the 'sky is the limit' with Singh's Srinagar statement that 'all options are open'. 'Does this mean we will rescind all the parliamentary resolutions (on Jammu and Kashmir)' Will plebiscite be held' he asked.

A parliamentary resolution affirming India's commitment not to yield an inch of territory to Pakistan was needed to straighten the record as Rao's statement had created confusion, Shourie said.

Sharma said 'the PM and this government have made it clear that while talking of a dialogue, the territorial integrity of the country and what is mandated by the Constitution will be supreme'.

'There is no question of going back on the parliamentary resolution,' he added.

Shourie said that the UPA regime's other 'permissive' signals included the Andhra Pradesh government's decision to talk to Naxalite groups, the repeal of the anti-terror law, and the assurance of speaking to the Ulfa.

Sharma countered that the mere enactment of the Prevention of Terrorism Act did not stave off an attack on Parliament or the Red Fort, both of which happened during the NDA regime's tenure.

'It has to have will and resolve and this the government has,' the Congress leader said.

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