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Sonia gets party behind Manmohan

After getting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to return to the pre-Sharm-El-Sheikh line on linking terrorism with the composite dialogue process, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday declared her support for Mr Singh’s parliamentary “statement” on India-Pak relations.

Ms Gandhi’s stand on the government’s recent Pakistan initiatives, made during a speech to Congress parliamentarians, emphasised that the resumption of the composite dialogue process was conditional to Pakistan curbing India-directed terrorism from its soil. Without actually evoking the joint statement, she backed the PM’s intervention in Lok Sabha but, significantly, steered clear of mentioning Balochistan.

“The PM has made a firm and unequivocal statement in the Lok Sabha yesterday on all major foreign policy issues, in particular, our relations with Pakistan. No one should be in any doubt on our party’s position vis-a-vis Pakistan. It remains unchanged. We support the resumption of the dialogue process with Pakistan, but only after it has demonstrated its seriousness to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks to justice, and to prevent its territory from being used to launch terror attacks on any part of our country. These are imperatives for restoring confidence and building an environment conducive to any meaningful dialogue,” Ms Gandhi said in her address to the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) general body meeting.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi also came out to back the prime minister. “Government and party are absolutely one. You (media) have created such an impression,” he said.

Ms Gandhi’s speech de-emphasised the joint statement and clearly signaled the Congress’ unease with early resumption of Indo-Pak talks. The move ties in with party’s reticence over the past two weeks in supporting the Sharm-El-Sheikh joint statement signed by Mr Singh. Anticipating popular backlash ahead of assembly polls, Congress had sought to create a distance between the party and the government on the issue. It is only after the PM told Parliament on Wednesday that India did not favour immediate resumption of the composite dialogue with Pakistan that Congress has thrown its weight behind Mr Singh.

This strategy, while proving costly in terms of leaving the PM to fend for himself, has helped Congress to counter Opposition’s attack on the UPA government for “surrendering to Pakistan and succumbing to US pressure”. It will, however, give a fresh lease of life to moves from within Congress to undermine the PM’s authority — he had taken on invincible air after Ms Gandhi’s unflinching backing to him over the political gamble over the Indo-US nuke deal — and put Mr Singh in the direct line of fire each time the Balochistan mention comes up in future Indo-Pak negotiations.

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July 31, 2009 - Posted by | News, Politics, Terror | , , , , , , , ,

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