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|October 12, 1999||
Minorities have nothing to fear: PM
The apprehensions of the minority communities about the Bharatiya Janata Party are a bogey and a political tool to mobilise opinion against the party, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said.
"The fear is more fiction than fact," he told Newsweek in an interview.
The country has been free of communal violence and tension in the past 18 months. There have been some reprehensible incidents, but they are aberrations and not the pattern, he added.
Moreover, he pointed out, maintaining law and order is the responsibility of state governments and is beyond the purview of the Centre.
Vajpayee said his government believes in the principle of sarva punth samabhav or equal respect for all faiths.
The state will protect all its citizens, irrespective of caste, creed, gender, or religion, he asserted.
Referring to India's relationship with Pakistan, Vajpayee said, "If Pakistan reciprocates in a genuine and credible manner, the Lahore process can be revived. It is now for Pakistan ... to convince us that they mean business. To begin with, trans-border terrorism has to stop."
The Kargil conflict was the result of Pakistan's misadventure -- militarily, diplomatically and economically. "We did not inflict this damage on them, they invited it upon themselves," he said.
Talking about mudslinging by political parties in the recent election, Vajpayee said he personally favoured a campaign where the spotlight would be on programmes and policies rather than individuals.
But, he said, campaigners usually get carried away and end up saying things that should have never been uttered. This is true of democratic elections anywhere in the world, he added.
Once the elections are over, "we leave the campaign behind and settle down in our respective roles as the party in government or the party in opposition", he said.
"My government was in the process of building a national consensus on the issue of signing the CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] when domestic political developments forced mid-term elections. The process of securing a national consensus will be resumed once a new government is in place," he said.
Some matching action by the key interlocutors will help build the consensus, he said.
US President Bill Clinton's visit would help strengthen the friendship between the two countries and pave the way for greater co-operation between the two governments, Vajpayee said.
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