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|August 31, 1999||
Congress produces 'Kargil alert' letter, continues Sugargate offensive
Congress spokesperson Kapil Sibal displayed a copy of the defence ministry document showing that it had received the much talked about letter from Brig Surinder Singh on June 28, 1999 with annexures containing 68 pages on the Kargil situation. The receipt contained the signature of the defence ministry official (Sub L K Sinha) and seal of the army headquarters (letter no: 29734/ss/conf.).
Sibal said the government had earlier claimed that there was no such letter in the file. The publication of Brig Surinder Singh's letter in a news magazine vindicated the Congress stand that what was being claimed as a great achievement was actually a blunder of Himalayan proportions, he said.
Describing the government's denial of the Sugargate Scandal as absurd and meaningless, Sibal said its arguments also were untenable.
Referring to the government version that sugar import under open general licence existed from 1994, Sibal said this was started when there was a sugar shortage which continued up to 1997-98. But when the production exceeded the demand, the government should have stopped imports or increased the import duty to 220 per cent as prevailed in Europe or 240 per cent as in the United States. The Indian import duty of 27.5 per cent is the lowest in the world and even the WTO has allowed import duty up to 150 per cent, he said.
There was a strong demand from the Indian sugar mills and 3.5 crore sugar farmers to stop imports as heavy stocks remained unsold in godowns, he said. The government obviously did not think it necessary to prevent import of Pakistani sugar from the ISI-controlled Army Welfare Trust even while the Kargil conflict was claiming the lives of our jawans, he charged.
Sibal said Prime Minister A B Vajpayee must reveal who benefited most from such conditions assiduously fostered by the BJP-led caretaker government. The import was at a price more than international prices and the payment was in foreign exchange resulting in huge loss to the public exchequer, he said.
It was significant that when Vajpayee gradually raised the import duty on sugar to 27.5 per cent, the Pakistani prime minister raised subsidies to the same level, he said.
Sibal said a mere denial was not enough and the government has not replied to any of the 16 questions it asked. The questions asked included whether the government was not aware that the ISI-controlled AWT would use the foreign exchange earned from India for anti-India purposes; who benefited most from these imports; and what was R K Mishra's role in this deal.
Recalling Vajpayee's visit to Kargil after telephoning Nawaz Sharief, Sibal said there was an intimate connection between Sugargate and the Kargil gateway to India. Sibal said Pakistan, which exported sugar to India was importing sugar from elsewhere this year. He also alleged that Kundan Rice Mills, Delhi, which imported sugar from Pakistan was now importing sugar from China. How can a net importer like China export sugar to India, he asked.
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