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Cong rallies around PM over Pak jt statement

The Congress on Monday came out in strong support of PM Manmohan Singh`s Pakistan initiative.

New Delhi: With fresh disclosure of the contents of a dossier detailing action against the Mumbai attackers given by Islamabad to New Delhi, the Congress Monday came out in strong support of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s Pakistan initiative that delinks action on terror from the composite dialogue process.
"The Congress is confident that when the prime minister speaks in parliament on July 29, he will set at rest all the questions, all apprehensions and speculation relating to the Indo-Pak joint statement at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt," AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters.

The Prime Minister should have the liberty to take decisions and "move forward" on key foreign policy issues like Pakistan, added Union Minister Salman Khurshid while denying that there was a rift between the party and the government over the July 16 joint statement that includes for the first time a reference to Balochistan and agrees to delink the issue of terrorism from the composite dialogue process.

The remarks seemed to be an indication that the party was rallying behind Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, under attack from various quarters for his alleged "capitulation" to Pakistan on the issue of terrorism.

"We have all the relevant answers. I have made a statement in Parliament and parliament is again going to discuss the issue. I will clarify," Manmohan Singh said Saturday when asked about the opposition`s attack on the controversial joint statement.

The statement, issued after talks between Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani at Egypt`s Sharm el-Sheikh resort on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit July 16, has been decried by some as a concession and capitulation to Pakistan on the issue of cross-border terrorism.

The Prime Minister also dismissed the reported difference of opinion between the government and Congress party on the issue as a "media creation".

Besides putting up a united front against the onslaught of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance -- which is meeting President Pratibha Patil on the issue Tuesday -- Congress leaders are also beginning to see the larger picture behind Manmohan Singh`s controversial move at Sharm el-Sheikh, said a party insider.

A dossier given by Islamabad to the Indian High Commission July 11, a week before the meeting between Manmohan Singh and Gilani, may have proved to be a crucial swing factor in persuading Manmohan Singh that the civilian regime in Pakistan was finally getting serious about punishing the perpetrators and masterminds of the Mumbai carnage.

In the 36-page dossier, Pakistan admits unequivocally that the 26/11 attacks were "planned, funded and facilitated" in Pakistan by activists of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) - the first time Islamabad has admitted in writing about the involvement of militants based in its territory in any terror attack in India.

The investigators "unanimously agreed that substantial incriminating evidence is available on the record directly connecting the accused persons with the commission of the offence", according to the dossier, whose contents were excerpted in a national English daily, which also contains details of the funding of the operation.

Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and four other LeT operatives have been charged in an anti-terrorist court in Pakistan with the "planning, preparation and execution" of the terrorist attack and functioned as "operational handlers" of the 10 terrorists who unleashed the 26/11 carnage, the dossier says.

Senior officials in the Indian intelligence establishment said the dossier did confirm some of the details provided by India linking the terrorists to Pakistan.

"They have confirmed some details such as the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) that the handlers were using to be in touch with the ten terrorists in Mumbai," said a senior security official.

"We are still studying the full details of their dossier and what we sent them."

It was in an acknowledgement of some of Pakistan`s steps against the perpetrators of the Nov 26 Mumbai carnage that India decided to begin a limited dialogue at the level of foreign secretaries at Sharm el-Sheikh, official sources said.

But the form, timing and place of dialogue, as Manmohan Singh told parliament, will depend on Pakistan`s tangible steps against terrorism directed against India.


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