Sunday, Nov 02, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
India had taken the lead in restoring bilateral ties through a combination of initiatives aimed at promoting greater people-to-people interaction, cultural exchanges and economic cooperation. However, he ruled out a dialogue with Islamabad till it displayed sincerity in stopping cross-border infiltration and dismantling terrorist training and launch-pads in its territory.
This is the first time the Prime Minister has expressed his views on the 12 confidence building measures and the prospects of across-the-table discussions with Pakistan.
Describing the present phase of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir as being fuelled by `jehadis' rendered unemployed by the Russian retreat from Afghanistan, the Prime Minister said there should be no let-up in military action to curb cross-border infiltration. "We will continue to deal firmly with cross-border terrorism and a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan is only possible when we see sincerity in its efforts to stop cross-border infiltration and to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism," he said.
Referring to China with which India also has differences on the border question, Mr. Vajpayee said that the situation remained "largely peaceful" and his recent visit to Beijing had raised bilateral ties in general and economic cooperation to a "qualitatively higher level". The decision to appoint Special Representatives to discuss the boundary question from a political perspective was a "particularly significant measure". A final resolution of the boundary question would release considerable military energies and finances for other more purposeful activities. "It is, therefore, a strategic objective and to achieve it, we should be willing to take some pragmatic decisions," he said.
India also remained committed to playing a larger role in its extended neighbourhood. Rejecting Pakistan's implied claim on Afghanistan, Mr. Vajpayee said that India would firmly withstand "crude threats" being made against its consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad.
India was also reaching out to its extended neighbourhood on the eastern side as well as fostering closer ties with Europe and the United States. Cordiality with the U.S. had been restored, strategic partnership with Russia strengthened and summit-level dialogues established with the European Union and the ASEAN. These measures had brought India into the top international league and the returns were visible. "We have almost lost count of the number of countries that today publicly support India's candidature to the permanent membership of the U.N. Security Council."
New Delhi was also playing an active part in promoting multi-country partnerships. "We have played an important role in the G-20 efforts at Cancun (WTO meeting). We have had discussions on India-Russia-China trilateral cooperation, and on an entirely different plane an India-Brazil-South Africa dialogue. We are developing other regional and sub-regional linkages in Asia, Latin America and Africa," he said.
The firmness displayed by the military was one of the three pillars that had brought India to the centre-stage of international politics. The other two were diplomatic repositioning and economic resurgence.
Insurgency in the northeast was a cause for concern mainly due to the safe sanctuaries for terrorists in neighbouring countries. The Prime Minister suggested a two-pronged strategy use various means to deny bases to terrorists in neighbouring countries and focus strongly on economic development. The Defence Minister, George Fernandes, and the Finance Minister, Jaswant Singh, also addressed the military commanders.
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