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No dialogue with Pakistan: PM

By Jyoti Malhotra in New Delhi
April 10, 2009 22:07 IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday admitted that he had 'threatened to resign' last year unless the United Progressive Alliance government supported him on the India-United States nuclear agreement, adding that he had "made this quite clear to everyone concerned."

In an interaction with nearly 150 journalists from the Indian Women's Press Corps in New Delhi on Friday evening, the prime minister spoke on a range of issues that included the Congress party's decision to drop Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar to the state of the economy.

Dr Singh also stoutly denied the claim made by Pakistani authorities about India being the mastermind behind the terrorist attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore in March.

"The comment of the Lahore chief of police should be treated with the contempt it deserves," he said, adding that these are "usual tactics to divert attention" from the main problems currently plaguing Pakistan.

"I completely deny that anybody in India had any hand in the attacks on the Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore," he stated.

Speaking on the issue of resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue, he said, "India can choose its friends, but not its neighbours. Dialogue is a necessity, but cannot be resumed until Pakistan is willing to prosecute those involved in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai."

In response to a question, Dr Singh said the toughest task of his tenure was getting the Indo-US nuclear deal through. "It was a question of India's honour -- the fact that we got success, despite the desertion of the Left (parties). Negotiations had gone on for three years. If at the end of three years, the deal would not have come through, it would have given the world a very bad impression," he said.

"I have already said that I would have resigned if the deal had not come through. It was for India's honour that I staked my reputation," he added.

He urged the people to acknowledge the 'sensitivities' of the Congress party, which had decided to drop Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar from contesting the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, in view of their alleged involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

When reminded that he has been critical of the Congress party's lax actions in the past, he said, "Whatever my views may have been in the past, obviously the party has reversed its own decision. This shows the sensitivity of the Congress party to the people. You should compliment the Congress for this."

"Der aaye, durust aaye (even if someone is late, at least he has arrived)," he added on a lighter note.

Responding in kind to Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate L K Advani's scathing attacks on him, Dr Singh said, "I agree that I cannot match Mr Advani in public speaking, but the proof is in the pudding. What is Mr Advani's record as home minister?"

He criticised the BJP's handling of the IC-814 hijacking, when the then foreign minister Jaswant Singh had handed over three terrorists to the hijackers, in exchange for the safe return of the passengers on board

"Compare this to the Mumbai (terror attacks), when we did not negotiate with the terrorists but sent commandos... This is the first time that Pakistan has admitted that one of its own people has been involved in an attack against India," he said.

Pointing out that he doesn't want to use abusive language against Advani, who has repeatedly called him a 'weak and indecisive PM', Dr Singh said, "The people of India will judge who is weak and who is strong. The BJP doesn't want to use Parliament to debate issues; they have tried to block every debate in the House."

By now, considerably charged up, the PM added, "I don't want to give Mr Advani the advantage of thinking that he is the alternative PM."

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Jyoti Malhotra in New Delhi
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