‘Forceful diplomacy’ led to Pakistan’s 26/11 admission, says Congress (Lead)

March 24th, 2009 - 6:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) Attacking the BJP’s divisive approach towards terrorism, the Congress Tuesday underlined its commitment to an independent foreign policy and claimed that Pakistan’s admission of the role of its citizens in the Mumbai terror spree was a victory of the party’s “patient but forceful diplomacy”.
Forcefully repudiating the BJP’s charge of being soft on terror, the Congress party, which leads the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), claimed in its manifesto it was “the only party” that could deal with the scourge of terrorism “decisively and squarely” without weakening the social fabric.

“It is only the Indian National Congress that can deal with the scourge of terrorism squarely and decisively but without weakening the delicate strands that have, together, bound our society for centuries,” the Congress said in the manifesto that was unveiled by Congress president Sonia Gandhi at the party headquarters.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and other senior Congress leaders were also present.

“After the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai, the Congress-led UPA government mounted a forceful diplomatic campaign. It was this campaign that led to Pakistan admitting, for the first time, that Pakistani citizens were responsible for the attacks. That admission was a notable victory for our well thought out foreign policy,” the document stated.

Addressing journalists after the launch of the manifesto, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh emphasised the need for Pakistan to ensure that justice was done and the culprits behind the Mumbai attacks punished.

“There was justified anger, and we also knew that this act was perpetrated by actors who came from Pakistan. We expect the government of Pakistan to bring all the culprits to book,” Manmohan Singh said.

“It is in this context that we made important diplomatic efforts. Fortunately, those efforts have succeeded. For the first time, Pakistan has admitted that its own citizens have been involved in the terrorist act,” the prime minister said.

“We expect Pakistan to take the next step (to ensure) justice is done and culprits are punished. We still believe diplomacy should be given a chance. No purpose is served by war hysteria.”

Underscoring its commitment to promoting people-to-people contacts and enduring peace, the party’s manifesto also made it clear that the onus was on Pakistan to take credible action against the Mumbai terrorists if the stalled dialogue with India was to resume.

“If it does so and dismantles the terrorist networks that operate from its soil, a Congress-led government will not be found wanting in its response.”

The party’s manifesto was unstinting in its condemnation of what it called the BJP’s”muscular” foreign policy and the politics of religious polarisation.

“Terrorism can be fought only by a united people, not by a people divided by religion. Religious polarisation that is intrinsic to the BJP severely erodes our capacity to combat terrorism,” the party said.

“The country knows the heavy price that was paid for such a ‘muscular’ foreign policy - stupor in Kargil, surrender in Kandahar and stalemate in Operation Parakram,” the manifesto stated.

The Congress also repudiated its opponents who accused it of compromising an independent foreign policy and underscored its commitment to defending the country’s interests in its engagement with the world.

“We will continue to pursue an independent, pro-India foreign policy. The Indian National Congress has always upheld India’s supreme national interests and has often braved criticism and opposition both at home and abroad in defending the country’s interests.”

Touting India’s civil nuclear deal with the US and other countries like Russia, France and Kazakhstan as its major achievements, the Congress said India’s foreign policy had earned it “a new respect and stature internationally”.

The party said it would be “sensitive to regional aspiration” and pushed for “an honourable solution” to the ethnic feud in Sri Lanka that guarantees all communities, especially the Tamil-speaking people, equal rights within the framework of a united Sri Lanka.

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