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Talks with Pakistan: Congress is in a bind

By Renu Mittal
Last updated on: February 09, 2010 00:52 IST
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The Congress has offered conditional support to the United Progress Alliance government on its decision to "commence" dialogue with Pakistan stating that the party was not "completely satisfied" with the approach and attitude of the Pakistani government and mandating that it wanted "terror to remain at the centre of the dialogue".

Party spokesman Manish Tewari said the government has made a determination based on the inputs it has received on the need to commence the dialogue process with Pakistan, emphasizing that the dialogue would "commence" and not "re-commence" as is being made out. He said in that context it is appropriate to let the process go forward.

While there is considerable bewilderment in political circles on how and why India has gone the extra mile to begin the dialogue process when nothing substantial has changed in terms of Pakistan's deliverance on the perpetrators of the Mumbai 26/11 terror attack, the answer has interestingly enough come from Pakistan itself with its foreign minister Qureshi asserting almost gloatingly, "We did not kneel before India but India had to come to the negotiating table under international pressure."

International pressure is being read in political circles as mounting pressure from the United States to begin dialogue with Pakistan with Dr Manmohan Singh faced with a deadline of April 10, when he again travels to Washington to meet the US President Barrack Obama, said a critic of the UPA government's policy on Pakistan.

A Congress senior leader said the prime minister should have waited till after the visit of Home Minister P Chidambaram to give the dates for a proposed dialogue since Chidambaram has been taking a tough line on the Mumbai terror attack and has repeatedly asked Pakistan to deliver. There is within the Indian government an acknowledgement that Pakistan has been far from co-operative on the issue and has been pussy-footing on delivery but despite that the PMO appears to have decided that too much time has been wasted and now the two countries need to sit together.

Within the Congress, a senior leader said popular opinion continues to be against the resumption of engagement with Pakistan but the party appears to be caught in a bind as it feels the need to back the government, but not wholeheartedly welcome the move.

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi
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