On eve of PM statement, party rallies behind govt on Pak

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 29 2009, 04:22am hrs
The unease in the Congress over the Indo-Pak joint statement may have finally been put out. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, having secured the partys backing, is set to firmly refute Opposition charges in Parliament on July 29 that the Sharm el-Sheikh statement compromised Indias interests.

Congress sources on Monday indicated that Singh will adhere to the tough stand of ruling out the composite dialogue process with Pakistan unless it responded with adequate steps to curb terrorism emanating from its soil and brings those responsible for the Mumbai attacks to book. He will, however, justify the debracketing of dialogue with action on terrorism giving the ground he gave earlier that absence of movement in the dialogue process should not be used to stall progress in the probe on the Mumbai attacks.

He is also expected to clarify the Balochistan issue by arguing that its inclusion in the joint statement was only a recognition of Pakistans concerns about the troubled region and does not suggest, in any way, guilt on Indias part.

That the Congress leadership has firmly weighed in behind the PM was evident when AICC general secretary and media department chairperson Janardan Dwivedi this morning read out from a prepared text. The Congress is confident that when the Prime Minister speaks in Parliament on July 29, he will set at rest all the questions, all apprehensions and speculation relating to the Indo-Pak joint statement at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, he said.

This was followed by a public assertion, for the first time in a week, by one of his ministerial colleagues that there was no disconnect between party and government. There is no disagreement between the government and the party on the issue. The entire party is with the PM, minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid told reporters.

The unequivocal party backing for the PM had come at a Friday evening meeting of the Congress core committee, attended by Sonia Gandhi, where Singh had cleared the air on the joint statement. Party leaders explained that Dwivedis remarks this morning were only a filler to try and end the confusion since the gap between the PMs earlier statement in Parliament and the one he is to make on July 29 was long.

The BJP, meanwhile, has decided to march to Rashtrapati Bhavan on Tuesday to submit a memorandum to President Pratibha Patil seeking to draw her attention to the issue.