March 17, 2013

Keep off our affairs, furious India tells Pakistan

TNN | Mar 16, 2013, 01.27 AM IST

Afzal Guru allegedly justified Parliament attack in letter written fo...Parliament condemns Pakistan house resolution on Afzal Guru, calls it...Parliament attack: Chronology of eventsParliament House attack convict Afzal Guru hanged to death at 8amTimeline: From Parliament attack to hanging
NEW DELHI: The scope for revival of the peace process with Pakistan shrank significantly on Friday, with Parliament rebuking Pakistan's National Assembly for condemning the execution of Afzal Guru and asking it to refrain from supporting terrorists and warning of the consequences of dabbling in India's internal affairs.

The tit-for-tat resolution, unanimously adopted by both Houses, also linked the resumption of dialogue to efforts by Pakistan to stop terror attacks on India from territory under its control, reducing the head room for proactive tension-easing maneuvers with Islamabad.

In a brazen provocation, Pakistan's National Assembly had on Thursday adopted a resolution condemning Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's hanging and demanding the return of his body to his family.

Parliament was unanimous and hard-hitting in its response. "This House totally rejects the resolution passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan on March 14, 2013. The House notes that Pakistan has committed that it would not allow its territory to be used against India and only fulfillment of this comment can be the basis for peaceful relations with Pakistan. The House rejects interference in the internal affairs of India and calls upon the National Assembly of Pakistan to desist from such acts of support for extremist and terrorist elements."

The resolution, drafted after consultations between the foreign ministry and political parties, also recalled the resolution Parliament had passed in 1994 to signal that India was not reconciled to the loss of part of J&K to Pakistan.

"The House reiterates that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir including the territory under illegal occupation of Pakistan is and shall always be an integral part of India. Any attempt from any quarter to interfere in the internal affairs of India will be met resolutely and with complete unity of our nation," it said.

The resolution, read out by Speaker Meira Kumar in Lok Sabha and Chairman Hamid Ansari in Rajya Sabha, marked a significant hardening of stand and can cramp the elbow room for initiatives to restore normal business with Pakistan.

It has made a substantive dialogue contingent upon what steps Pakistan wishes to take to stop terror attacks being directed at India from its soil as well as PoK, bringing back a conditionality which was introduced by India in January 2004 but that Islamabad had succeeded in blurring.

Beginning with 2005 when Pervez Musharraf prevailed upon India to keep the reference to the January 2004 agreement between the two sides on the backburner, Pakistan succeeded in de-emphasizing its counter-terror commitment, at Havana and then at Sharm-el Sheikh.

That the phraseology, suggested by BJP's Yashwant Sinha who was the foreign minister in 2004, was accepted by the government signaled the new toughness. With government having to fend off accusations of effete diplomacy and elections looming, analysts feel it may not wish to take a big political risk for the sake of peace with Pakistan, especially when the latter's intention are seen as suspect.

BJP's aggression in both Houses was a pointer to the potential political costs of persisting with the peace process with Pakistan, with leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley saying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should now forget walking even an extra yard in improving ties with Pakistan, let alone a mile.

"Pakistan will now have to walk extra two miles rather than our prime minister wanting to walk an extra mile if we want to normalize relations. With these kind of resolutions (the one passed by Pakistan's National Assembly), normalization of relations will not be possible," Jaitley said.

The BJP leader said the resolution passed by Pakistan's National Assembly was confirmation of the suspicion that the attack on Parliament was planned and executed in Pakistan.

BJP president Rajnath Singh demanded that India scale down diplomatic relations with Pakistan. "Unless Pakistan abides by its commitment given to us in 2004 that no terrorist activities against India would be carried out on its soil, the Centre should also supend the confidence-building measures for the time being," he said.

Raising the issue in Lok Sabha, Sinha had called for a "befitting reply" to Pakistan's National Assembly.

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