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Special: Manmohan's Masterstrokes

Last updated on: November 13, 2011 00:16 IST

Special: Manmohan's Masterstrokes

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Prasanna D Zore

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not mince words when media persons hurled a volley of questions at him while returning from Maldives. Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore, who was part of the media delegation on board prime minister's special aircraft, reports.

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh fielded media's questions on board Air India One on his way back from the 17th SAARC Summit after a bilateral meeting with the Maldives on November 12.

 

To make up for his "Gilani is a man of peace" statement that ruffled Opposition's feathers in India, Dr Singh upped the ante against Pakistan.

Considered as a masterstroke by political observers, Dr Singh seems to have silenced his critics at home who think he is soft on Pakistan while simultaneously putting Islamabad on notice by stating that any movement forward on peace process between the two nations was subject to Indian public opinion that justice will be meted out to the perpetrators of the "barbarous" act of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

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Image: PM Manmohan Singh addressing media persons on board his special aircraft
Photographs: Courtesy PIB
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Ready to take on the Opposition

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Nevertheless, he defended his 'man of peace' statement with aplomb and reason.

 

Dr Singh seems charged and ready to take on the Opposition which is apparently waiting for him with daggers drawn as the 2G trial begins, inflation and oil prices continue their upward journey and with all eyes on how the government handles Kingfisher Airlines' debt problem.

 

Importantly, he indirectly indicated that if oil prices continue to move up prices of fuel oil will also have to go up, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's withdrawal threats notwithstanding.

 

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Photographs: Courtesy PIB
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'In Gilani, we have a PM willing to work with us'

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On what inspired Dr Singh to call his Pakistani counterpart Gilani a man of peace

 

It is not a question of inspiration. I have met Gilani four-five times. Every time I have discussed our bilateral issues, he has agreed that there is no way but a peaceful resolution of all our problems; that terrorism is not helping their country.

He has never had any hesitation in saying that terrorism is a common enemy and that it is not helping the cause of Pakistan. And therefore I believe as a democratic government, Gilani would like to strengthen the hands of democratic countries.  

 

It is in this context that I have come to believe that Pakistan's desire of normalising our relationship vis-a-vis trade relations and terror-related issues have shown progress and in Gilani we have a prime minister who is willing to work with us.

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Image: Dr Singh with Pakistan PM Yusuf Raza Gilani
Photographs: Courtesy PIB
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Pak military on board peace process

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On Pakistan's armed forces supporting normal relations with India

I did discuss this with Prime Minister Gilani and he told me that the Pakistani armed forces are on board in carrying the peace process forward.

And the feeling that I got was after a long time Pakistan's armed forces are on board.

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AFSPA: 'Must objectively review the situation'

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On removal of Armed Forces Special Power Act

 

I think this is very much a function of security situation (in the country).

For all those in charge of security and dealing with the political processes they have to sit back and objectively review the situation.


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'Our approach now towards Pakistan will be trust but verify'

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On bringing 26/11 terrorists in Pakistan to justice

 

Let me state that I did take up the issue (with PM Gilani during the bilateral summit at the 17thSAARC Summit in Maldives) and to bring to justice all those responsible for the barbarous act.

I don't want to delve much into what the interior minister of Pakistan said (about India giving only information but not credible evidence) but I left Gilani in no doubt that if Indian public opinion is not satisfied that justice is being done against the perpetrators of barbarous act involved in 26/11 the peace process cannot move forward. 

 

And there has been some movement. Pakistan has agreed to send a judicial commission. India has agreed to accept them, modalities are being worked out and therefore I expect some progress in that area as well.

 

But Pakistan has to remember that terror as a state policy has no place in the world, does not solve any country's problems and terror therefore has to be dealt with strongly. Our approach now towards Pakistan will be trust but verify (if they actually do what they say) and therefore it is our hope that Gilani would take forward what we discussed during the (17th SAARC) summit.

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'I will always welcome Rahulji if he comes forward'

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On Rahul Gandhi taking more responsibilities in Congress

 

I have requested Rahulji many times to do this, but he didn't get convinced.

I can't say much about the affairs of the party, but I will always welcome if Rahulji or any other leader comes forward and accepts greater responsibilities.

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'Telangana is a complicated matter'

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On Telangana

 

Telangana is a complicated matter and we are trying to evolve a consensus where all shades of public opinion would agree that what is being done is in everybody's interest.

We cannot solve the problem of Telangana by agreeing to Telangana being given while there is disquiet and unrest in other regions of the state.

We are still working to find pragmatic, practical ways and means that would bring all parties on a common platform.

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'I have not applied my mind to the Kingfisher problem yet'

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On bailing out Kingfisher Airlines

 

Private sector airlines have to be managed efficiently. But if they get into difficulties, we have to find ways and means to help them get out of their problems.

I have not applied my mind to the Kingfisher problem yet. When I get back, I will talk to Vayalar Ravi (civil aviation minister) and explore ways and means on how to solve the issue.

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'Beyond a point subsidies can only aggravate the budgetary problem'

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On hike in petroleum prices and inflation

 

One reason why inflation has become a problem affecting everybody is high crude prices.

India imports 75 per cent of its petroleum requirements.

If the prices go up (rise in crude prices) we have to either increase prices or absorb the increase by asking the oil marketing companies to subsidise petroleum products or increase budgetary subsidies. 

 

Our budgetary subsidies amounts to Rs 1,30,000 crore and that puts unsustainable burden on resources. Therefore, I would like all our countrymen to realise that when international prices are rising, and we have no control over international prices, beyond a point subsidies can only aggravate the budgetary problem.

And if budgetary problems rise, inflation will again rise.

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