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CONGRESS SHARPENS KNIVES OVER KARGIL GOOF-UPS 

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FROM RASHEED KIDWAI   |     |   Published 31.05.99, 12:00 AM

New Delhi, May 31 :     With an eye on elections, the Congress Working Committee plans to sharpen its attack on the Vajpayee government?s handling of the Kargil crisis, focusing on its diplomatic and strategic failures. The CWC meet, which was scheduled for today, will assess the government?s response to Pakistan foreign minister Sartaj Aziz?s proposed visit and the BJP?s reaction to defence minister George Fernandes? statement giving a clean chit to both Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the ISI. The Congress shift on Kargil is significant as so far, the party has been extending unconditional support to the government on the ground that the need of the hour was solidarity. However, some CWC members want party chief Sonia Gandhi to take the government to task as they feel that it will be a long haul before the intruders are finally flushed out of Indian territory. Party leaders are also of the view that Kargil could become a major political issue during the coming elections. While the Congress fully approves the government?s decision to launch airstrikes to flush out infiltrators, it has posed some questions to the BJP government: What was the government doing since February 1999 when there were reports that Pakistan was planning a large-scale infiltration? What is the scope and extent of the proposed talks with Sartaj Aziz? Will issues like Kargil, Pakistani aggression, the Jammu and Kashmir question or handing over Fl Lt Nachiketa be discussed? If Fernandes really believes that the Pakistan government and the ISI are not involved, who is Aziz representing ? the army, the ISI or the Pakistani government? Will the Indian government continue military operations while holding talks with Aziz? Articulating the Congress? apprehensions, chairman of the AICC?s foreign affairs department K. Natwar Singh said: ?It is mindboggling that the Vajpayee government was aware that Pakistan was preparing for action on the Indian side of the LoC even as the Lahore Declaration was being discussed and signed.? ?While every Indian is united in supporting the government action, every Indian wants to know what was happening between February and May 1999?? Singh asked. The Congress leader said the government must take the people into confidence on the proposed talks with Pakistan. ?Since the Lok Sabha has been dissolved and the Rajya Sabha is not holding its sittings, the government must keep the nation informed through the press,? he said. Singh said the government was issuing contradictory statements. ?Today Vajpayee is saying that India is facing a war-like situation in Kargil. The government said exactly the opposite three days ago,? he said. ?It shows that the attitude of the government on the issue is immature, naive and unprofessional,? the Congress leader added. Sonia Gandhi has written to Sqn. Ldr Ajay Ahuja?s wife, saluting his valour and supreme sacrifice. ?In this hour of your deep grief, I know only too well how words are of little consequence. Nevertheless, I do want you to know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers,? she said.    
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