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July 13, 1999
Government in no mood for talks till polls
George Iype in New Delhi
Having won the battle in Kargil militarily and diplomatically, the caretaker Atal Bihari Vajpayee government is in no mood to resume the bilateral dialogue with Pakistan till the Lok Sabha election gets over.
Officials today ruled out the possibility of India considering Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief's offer of peace talks before a new government comes to power in October.
"No serious and substantive dialogue with Pakistan can be expected in the next two months as election campaigning will overtake the Kargil crisis soon," a senior government official told rediff.com
He said the assessment within the government and the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership is that any resumption of the bilateral dialogue at this juncture "will hurt the party's electoral prospects" as public sentiments across the country are clearly anti-Pakistan.
"No government would wish to lose votes after winning a war," the official remarked.
Officially though, India has taken the line that Sharief's offer can be considered only after the last of the intruders has left Indian territory within the stipulated time frame, that is dawn on July 16.
Meanwhile, the Union Cabinet met today. The chief of army staff, General Ved Prakash Malik, and his air force counterpart, Air Chief Marshal Anil Yashwant Tipnis, briefed the prime minister and his colleagues on the progress of Pakistan's 'Operation Retreat'.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Pramod Mahajan said soon after the meeting that the government would consider a dialogue only after the infiltrators completely vacate Indian territory.
He said the government has received clear signals that the intruders are going back. "But if they do not go by July 16 morning, they will be thrown out," Mahajan said.
Officials in the external affairs ministry also indicated that there is no prospect of an early dialogue or rapprochement with Pakistan at this juncture.
The ministry's official spokesman, Joint Secretary Raminder Singh Jassal, put forward three demands, which he said, must be fulfilled for any future peace talks with Pakistan.
First, Pakistan has to stop making the untenable assertion that it did not send troops and terrorists to occupy the Kargil hills.
Second, Pakistan should reaffirm the sanctity of the Line of Control.
Third, Pakistan should stop cross-border terrorism.
Drawing attention to the attack on a Border Security Force camp by terrorists in Bandipore in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday night, Jassal said that even after Kargil, Pakistan is actively encouraging terrorism in India.
"Talks cannot continue when Pakistan continues to aid and abet terrorism on Indian territory," he declared.
"The unwarranted aggression and betrayal of trust has come from Pakistan," he said, adding that it was the Indian government that took the unprecedented initiative in February this year to make peace with Pakistan through the Lahore Declaration.
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