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|August 17, 1999||
Vajpayee issues fresh warning to Pakistan
Sharat Pradhan in Varanasi
Reacting to Pakistan's renewed threats about "creating more Kargils" in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today issued a stern warning in Varanasi. "Let it be known to Pakistan that we will not sit quiet. We will give a befitting reply," he said.
Vajpayee was addressing a mammoth gathering in the temple town while launching the Bharatiya Janata Party's election campaign.
This was the second time in succession that Vajpayee kicked off his party's election campaign from the sprawling grounds of one of India's oldest universities, Kashi Vidyapeeth. But there was a marked difference between his last speech at this very venue at the outset of the 1998 parliamentary election and this one.
Unlike in 1998, when Vajpayee was virtually pleading before a much smaller gathering to give the BJP a chance to prove its worth, he was now in his element, exhorting the gathering to vote for the party on merits.
With his entire focus on Kargil, the prime minister said, "You have seen what we have done for the nation in 13 months; and it is to complete the unfinished task that I have come here to knock at your doors and seek your support."
His 28-minute speech sent out the message loud and clear that Kargil would remain the BJP's primary issue in the election.
As the crowds went into euphoric applause, the prime minister added, "Mind you, we are not focussing merely on the election; our objective is to bring about total transformation of this nation; to rewrite the destiny of the country by removing poverty, disease and unemployment."
He lashed out at the Congress for conspiring to pull down his government without providing a viable alternative. "I wish those who brought down my government and threw the nation into another untimely election were capable of providing a stable government for a full term," he remarked.
Expressing deep concern at the decision of previous governments to reduce the country's defence outlay, he said, "That should not have been done, as defence should be any nation's priority."
In the same vein, he pointed out, "What one needs is both a well-equipped defence force as well as a strong nation." He claimed that the newly formed National Democratic Alliance under his leadership alone could foot that bill.
Barring intermittent references to other issues, Vajpayee focussed on Kargil, highlighting the valour and martyrdom of the Indian soldiers in "utterly hostile conditions" and condemning Pakistan for not even paying due respect to their own men who were killed in the conflict. "Our soldiers carried out the burial of many Pakistani soldiers with full Islamic rites, while Pakistan disfigured and mutilated the bodies of our men in uniform," he said.
He highlighted how his peace initiatives were thwarted by Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharief. "I went to Lahore with the message of peace, but what I received in return was betrayal."
Referring to Pakistan's increasing support for terrorists in India, he added, "We still want peace. But if someone does not believe in the language of peace, we can speak in the language they understand".
He said, "We could have crossed the Line of Control if we wanted, but our motive was not to escalate the war but to ensure restoration of our illegally occupied territory, so we stopped after pushing back the intruders."
Flaying Pakistan for its continued interference in Kashmir, he remarked, "The fact is that the war is not for Kashmir but for the Pakistani psyche; and until they cease to think that Pakistan is incomplete without Kashmir, this will not come to an end."
Here, while he referred to his talks with Sharief during the course of his stay in Lahore, Vajpayee recalled, "I told the Pakistani prime minister to realise what would come out of this in case we also started thinking that India is incomplete without Pakistan. This sent the surging crowds into prolonged applause with echoes of "Jai Shree Ram" and "Har Har Mahadev", the traditional Hindu war-cry.
Vajpayee made it loud and clear, "Kashmir is not merely a physical and integral part of India but a symbol of our national unity and integrity."
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