Opposition picks holes in govt response on Pak, walks out of House

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 1 2009, 03:07am hrs
The entire opposition staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, notwithstanding the spirited defence made by the Manmohan Singh government on the matter of the Indo-Pak joint statement at Sharm el-Sheikh.

Contending that it was dissatisfied with the governments response on the inclusion of Balochistan in the joint statement, the BJP led the walkout this afternoon just when external affairs minister SM Krishna was replying to the debate in the Lok Sabha. Then the Samajwadi Party walked out, followed by Left parties and the RJD, saying that the government response failed to satisfy them.

The Opposition stormed out when finance minister Pranab Mukherjee came out strongly in defence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and contended that the inclusion of Balochistan was a unilateral perception of Pakistan, which India did not endorse. Mukherjee maintained that India had nothing to hide and the problem of Balochistan, which has been there since 1950, was Pakistans internal affair. This is a unilateral reference and when you describe it as unilateral, we are not a party to it. This is Pakistans perception. It is not shared by us, he said.

Leader of Opposition, LK Advani, however, said his partys objections were based on this precise argument why should Balochistan figure in the joint statement when India was not involved at all He added that if it was done as a positive gesture to Pakistans Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani, then the Indian position that it has nothing to hide, should have figured there as well since it was a joint statement.

In his intervention, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee also backed the Prime Ministers line that no compromise had been made by agreeing to delink dialogue from action against terrorism by Pakistan. He reminded the BJP that even the previous NDA government had continued talks with Pakistan despite disruptions caused by the terror attacks. Talking does not mean full-fledged dialogue. Talking does not mean surrendering, Mukherjee said, underlining that India will have to remain engaged with Pakistan while pursuing a zero tolerance policy against terrorism. We cannot erase Pakistan. Pakistan is going to exist...War mongering is not the way. War is no solution, he said.

Replying to the debate, external affairs minister SM Krishna said we readily agreed to include Balochistan because we have nothing to hide. Let them come and see.