Dialogue only on accepted principle of civilised behaviour: Sonia Gandhi

5:28 PM, Friday, January 18th, 2013
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Sonia GandhiNew Delhi: Soon after External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said this morning that India would not let the recent tension along the Line of Control upset the peace process with Pakistan, Sonia Gandhi, president of the ruling Congress added, “Let us be very clear, dialogue must be based on accepted principles of civilised behaviour.”
 
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made it clear to Pakistan that it “cannot be business as usual” till those who mutilated the bodies of two Indian soldiers killed in Pakistani firing, beheading one of them, were brought to book.
 
Pakistan continues to deny any role of its troops in the savage treatment of the bodies of the Indian martyrs, has condemned the act and has offered talks at the Foreign Minister level to help de-escalate tension, a suggestion first made by its Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and then by the country’s High Commissioner to India Salman Bashir yesterday, who urged that dialogue is the only way forward to ease the tension between the two countries.
 
India is yet to respond directly to Pakistan’s offer though Mr Khurshid said today that the government will “respond positively” to what Pakistan High Commissioner had said. “The peace process has been something in which a lot of time has been invested and we won’t let these incidents that have happened recently affect it,” the minister told NDTV.

There has been no firing reported at the border since Wednesday night, when senior military officers of India and Pakistan agreed to exercise restraint. Mr Bashir said there was a need “to bring back normalcy. I believe it is in mutual interest of both the nations to use the offer made by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister to deal with the present state of affairs.”
 
He denied that Pakistani troops mutilated the bodies of the two Indian soldiers and said, “Such heinous acts of course are condemnable irrespective of wherever they happen and whenever they have happened. But to say that they were done by Pakistan or the Pakistan army was responsible is something that we cannot agree to.” Mr Bashir  added that, “When India raised the issue with us, we had said that we had made some preliminary checks…that we were prepared to do more and both the militaries needed to get to the bottom of it. That is the way we think this matter should have been handled instead of playing or stirring raw emotions and upping the rhetoric. That is detrimental to normal business.”
 
He also said that, “Unfortunately, Pakistan bashing has become fashionable whenever there is an issue,” he said.

Yesterday, Mr Khurshid had said that the government will not take any decision in haste on Pakistan’s offer. “These are things which you should anaylse, reflect on and take a decision. When we take a decision, we will let you know. Let’s just take things a step at a time. We have been through difficult moments. The government will take everything into account. The PM has given a clear indication that we will move step by step. Let’s see what is necessary to do and say, there’s no hurry,” he told reporters.

The Foreign Minister had also briefed the cabinet on Pakistan’s offer yesterday, reportedly saying that sustained pressure from India had made the neighbour shift its stance from trying to internationalise the issue to seeking bilateral dialogue. Islamabad had earlier suggested a United Nations investigation into the killing of two Indian soldiers and mutilation of their bodies along the Line of Control last week. India had flatly rejected that suggestion.
 
He also reportedly pointed out that Pakistan had only spoken through the media so far and India would decide on any dialogue only after a formal offer from Pakistan’s diplomatic channels.
 
Tension between India and Pakistan peaked last week after the two Indian soldiers were killed in firing by Pakistani troops. In the next few days, the Indian Army reported repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops along the 742-km LoC and said it had only retaliated. Pakistan has denied all of India’s charges and has instead accused it of initiating aggression; it claims that three of its soldiers have been killed by Indian troops.

In the wake of the escalation of the tension along the LoC, two phases of the much-hyped Indo-Pak liberal visa agreement which have not been operationalised yet, have been put on hold. The tension has also hit sporting ties between the two countries. Nine hockey players who were signed up for the Hockey India League being played now, were asked to return this week

 

                       

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