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|May 21, 2002||
The Rediff Interview/Congress spokesman Anand Sharma
A day before the crucial debate in Parliament on the Kaluchak terrorist attack in Jammu, Congress leaders counselled the ruling National Democratic Alliance to cut down on rhetoric and concentrate on a strategy that would enable India to defeat the forces of terrorism.
Congress spokesman Anand Sharma maintains that the party's policy against terrorism has been consistent and NDA leaders, particularly those belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party, are needlessly raising a war hysteria. An interview with Tara Shankar Sahay:
Why did your party president Sonia Gandhi lash out at the Vajpayee government on the Kaluchak terrorist attack in Jammu even before the debate began on the issue in the Lok Sabha a day later?
Our party chief noted that following such attacks, the leaders in this government begin belligerent talk that is out-and-out sabre-rattling. Madam Gandhi pointed out that the government cannot always come up with a knee-jerk reaction to such attacks.
If you look at this government's track record, that is a fact. She pointed out that instead of such vocal muscle-flexing, the government should come out with a comprehensive strategy for countering the menace of terrorism.
That is the need of the hour and not mindless assertions of all-out war against Pakistan.
What did Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee tell Sonia Gandhi when he invited her to his home on Sunday [May 19] to apprise her of the government's strategy against cross-border terrorism?
When the prime minister calls the leader of the Opposition to share the government's strategy on such important issues, it cannot be revealed. Suffice it to say she was apprised of the essentials. It is between these two leaders.
What is your party's stand on the issue of terrorism?
The stand of our party against terrorism has been consistent. Our party chief has repeatedly emphasised that we extend broad support to the government on the issue of terrorism.
Also, it is not for us to decide on the strategy because the actions are determined by the government of the day. It is not for the Opposition to determine policy and mode of action.
BJP leaders have said that instead of criticising the government, the Congress should support its strategy against terrorists supported by Pakistan.
That's the point, we want the government to take us into confidence regarding a well-thought-out strategy to counter terrorists. But what we are getting is a whole lot of noise by the leaders of this government and little else.
You have to ask yourself whether such a trend is constructive in the overall interests of the country.
What is your answer to the NDA leaders' contention that if the Opposition led by the Congress lets the government do its job, there would be better coordination in making the enemy bite the dust.
I told you we give broad support to the considered steps [on terrorism], we are not making it a partisan issue. Also, we need no lectures of patriotism from the NDA leaders, especially those belonging to the BJP. Have these people forgotten so soon that if the country is in a mess today, thanks to the Gujarat riots and the central government's omissions and commissions, they are to blame?
Does your party approve of the government's seeming dependence on the American leadership to persuade Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism?
I would like to draw your attention to what our party chief said during the recent Congress parliamentary party meeting. She pointed out that it would be better for India to learn to depend on itself to fight terrorism.
During his reply to the debate in the Lok Sabha on the Kaluchak terrorist attack, Home Minister L K Advani underscored that the government would henceforth fight terrorism on its own.
Well, better late than never. At least some wisdom has dawned on it. I think the government must continue diplomatic initiatives to win over the opinion of the international community. It is of vital importance because the international standing of our country is in a shambles because of the Gujarat riots and the Vajpayee government's shocking attitude towards it.
BJP leaders have pointed out that during Congress regimes at the Centre, terrorism was equally bad in Jammu & Kashmir, if not worse.
It suits the BJP leaders to ignore that it was during the rule of a Congress government in Punjab that terrorism was eradicated from the state. We had a strategy to counter it and we did it effectively unlike the present [central] government which is groping in the dark.
In J&K too, our strategy to counter militancy was effective although it is a different matter that it will take time to be completely rooted out.
There is disillusionment among the people that political parties devise strategies to suit their needs, rather than the country's. What is the fact?
Let me point out that if the Congress is in power in 14 states today and if the people are looking up to us to provide a viable leadership, it is because of our performance. The Congress may have made mistakes in the past, which party does not? But can anybody deny that under Sonia Gandhi's leadership we are moving ahead at a pace which can only haunt the Vajpayee government.
Design: Dominic Xavier
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