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RSS 'open' to talks but draws red lines

What has changed since Ufa, asks Sinha

OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT   |   Published 08.12.15, 12:00 AM

New Delhi, Dec. 7: The RSS today officially maintained it had an "open mind" on the latest spurt in India-Pakistan engagements but privately drew red lines that it said the Centre would be "advised" to adhere to.

Yashwant Sinha, the BJP's former foreign minister, tried to queer the pitch for the Centre's efforts. He questioned what had changed on the ground since the Ufa meet last July between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif to prod the national security advisers (NSA) towards a dialogue.

Sanjay Raut, the Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP and Saamna editor, said: "Terror attacks in India cannot take place without Pakistan's support."

Sangh sources said the caveats they inserted in a general welcome to the Pakistan initiatives were meant to "neutralise" internal criticisms from people like Sinha and allies like the Sena.

On Sinha's charges, Vijay Chauthaiwale, the convener of the BJP foreign affairs cell and a Modi confidant, said: "The fact that Pakistan has accepted to talk on terror is a major gain for India."

Manmohan Vaidya, the RSS's official spokesperson, wouldn't give away much when asked what he thought of Modi's Paris handshake and sit-down chat with Sharif, the closely guarded Bangkok meeting between the NSAs, and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj's scheduled call on counterpart Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad tomorrow.

"Is it necessary for the Sangh to react to each policy move of the government?" he asked.

Shyam Parande, who heads the RSS's vishwa vibhag (foreign department), said: "These are positive developments and we have an open mind (on them). Let us see what eventually comes out of the moves."

A senior Sangh official said: "The principal concern before us is undoing Pakistan's agenda to project itself as a victim and not a perpetrator of terror as it has done quite successfully in the past.

"The UPA II government fell in this trap. We are clear that unless and until Pakistan dismantles the terror infrastructure created on its territory, there should be no dialogue.

"Secondly, Jammu and Kashmir alone cannot and should not be the focus of bilateral talks. Needless to say, there should be no third-party intervention in Jammu and Kashmir."

He alluded to a joint statement issued by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then Pakistan counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani, after a meeting at Sharm-al-Sheikh in July 2009.

The document said both leaders had agreed terrorism was the main threat to India and Pakistan and affirmed their resolve to fight it and cooperate with each other. Importantly, Gilani mentioned that Pakistan had "some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas".

Pakistan's long-standing case was India was allegedly fomenting trouble in its north-west frontier region.

After the BJP's protests, the Congress distanced itself from the statement.

The Sangh official welcomed the Bangkok interaction between Indian NSA Ajit Doval and his Pakistan counterpart, Nasser Khan Janjua, for two reasons.

"One, it was astute of them to meet in Bangkok so that there was no Hurriyat Conference to haunt the meeting. Had it been in Delhi or Islamabad, a third party would have disrupted the whole thing.

"Second, we completely trust Dovalji to put terror as the main thrust of the talks and put Pakistan on the mat for encouraging terror attacks in India. Now we have to watch how effectively Dovalji conveyed India's positions," he said.

Justifying Sushma's Islamabad trip, the official said: "She is essentially there for the Heart of Asia conference in which India's presence is absolutely necessary.

"Afghanistan is at the heart of this conference and we cannot have exchanges with Pakistan by having a hands-off approach towards Afghanistan. Events in that country impinge as much on our interests as Pakistan's."

When told the RSS had been a major factor in foiling a positive outcome to the 2001 Agra summit hosted by former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, the source said: "It was doomed to failure.

"If India conceded to Pakistan's demands, it would have compromised the BJP's historical positions on terror and allowed Pakistan to give precedence to Jammu and Kashmir above everything else.

"(LK) Advaniji (then deputy Prime Minister) recognised the dangers and advised the government correctly."

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