Government in damage control mode after NSA’s Pakistan, Obama comments (Lead)

February 4th, 2009 - 9:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaNew Delhi, Feb 4 (IANS) The Indian government Wednesday embarked on a damage control exercise after National Security Adviser (NSA) M.K. Narayanan’s remarks were interpreted by some to suggest New Delhi was going soft on Pakistan’s dilly-dallying over the 26/11 dossier. “Selective quotes taken out context from the detailed answers have tended to give a distorted idea of what was actually said,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) noted.

“The NSA, M.K. Narayanan, has clarified that references made in the course of an interview by him were answers to specific questions put by the interviewer,” the statement added.

The government’s clarification was also an attempt to correct the impression about a rift among its senior members over the approach to dealing with Pakistan in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks.

In an interview to CNN-IBN Sunday, Narayanan was critical of Pakistan’s attitide but some of his comments ended up giving the impression that Pakistan was taking the probe seriously - which stood out against External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s refrain that Islamabad was not acting on the 26/11 dossier given to it nearly a month ago.

“I don’t know what the word ’satisfied’ means, but certainly they appear to be taking things seriously and at least they are proceeding in a manner that one would expect an investigative agency to proceed,” Narayanan said when asked whether he thought India was satisfied with the way Pakistan has responded to 26/11 dossier.

“Asking queries and not taking everything that is given at the face value that has been given. Whether after all this, they would still accept the truth that will kind of hit them in the face, that I don’t know,” he said.

Narayanan also claimed that Pakistan had reverted on the Mumbai attacks dossier, asking questions to which answers were being given. “What I am aware of is that after the receipt of the dossier by Pakistan, the Pakistan government has reverted to us and asked number of questions to which answers are being provided…. I presume they are yet to receive replies to the second set of queries they have made,” the NSA had said.

This provoked a sharp reaction from Mukherjee, who has been asking Pakistan almost every day to respond to the dossier through proper diplomatic channels.

“That he (Narayanan) has stated in his own way. But the fact of the matter is that after they (Pakistan) received material from us, we have not received any official communication (about the probe) from them,” Mukherjee told reporters here when he was asked about Narayanan’s comments.

The PMO also issued a clarification on the NSA’s controversial comments that US President Barack Obama would be “barking up the wrong tree” if he links the Kashmir issue with addressing the turmoil in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

“It is further clarified that the underlying theme of the reply to the question on Indo-US relations was the high expectation India had from the Obama administration with a hope being expressed that it would be possible for India to make the new administration appreciate India’s positions and views on the region, including Kashmir,” the PMO statement said.

“Similarly, the reference to the situation in Pakistan and the role of former president Musharraf were also made in the context of specific questions put by the interviewer.”

In the same interview, Narayanan said that it was possible for India to do business with former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf.

“I think, as far as India was concerned, particularly with regard to the vexed questions that we had on Kashmir etc, it was possible to do business with him and I think our prime minister’s well-worn statement, namely that ‘I can do business with president Musharraf’, is, I think, now widely recognised as a part of the truth,” Narayanan had said.

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