NEW DELHI, March 16: Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said on Saturday that India’s relations with Pakistan were still tense and indicated that nothing would change this situation at least until the snow melts in Kashmir in a month or two when the passes along the Line of Control would again become accessible to militants on both sides, thereby testing Islamabad’s will to completely stop their movement.

Islamabad denies New Delhi’s charges that it deliberately dispatches militants for subversion in Kashmir and elsewhere in India.

“No one can deny that there is still tension between the two countries. Infiltration of terrorists has not stopped as yet. When that happens after the snow melts in Kashmir and infiltration stops fully along the Line of Control and the international border, a situation can develop which can pave the way for resuming a dialogue,” Vajpayee told the Lok Sabha.

He was responding to a debate on the Indian President’s address to parliament last month, and specifically to opposition leader Sonia Gandhi’s query on the current state of India-Pakistan ties, including Pakistan’s response to the Indian list of wanted men that New Delhi says are sheltered in Pakistan.

“Our demand about the list of 20 criminals is also pending. That is another crucial test of Pakistan’s sincerity in fighting terrorism. There is no problem in starting the talks, but the question is what after that,” Vajpayee said, adding the international community also recognised the menace of terrorism from across the border and “they understand our position” on resumption of talks.

Vajpayee said President Pervez Musharraf has a style of working. He keeps on making last minute surprises. We saw it in Kathmandu and now in Islamabad (Information and Broadcasting Ministers’ meet) ... we have also learnt about his style. “He wants to score a point only by media blitz ... that is why Sushma Swaraj told him that if he had anything concrete, like his proposal to allow our flights, it can be considered by the Indian cabinet, since we are a democracy,” he said.

Vajpayee regretted that those who masterminded the Dec 13 terror attack on Parliament had not yet been brought to justice and said concerted efforts were being made to further strengthen the fight against terrorism.

Winding up a two-day discussion on the motion of thanks on the President’s address, Vajpayee said the attack on Parliament was a challenge to the entire nation. The international community in one voice had strongly condemned the strike, he said.

The Press trust of India said: “Without naming Pakistan, he said it was unfortunate that the culprits have not yet been caught. India has sought the handing over from Pakistan of 20 fugitives, terrorists and other criminals including those behind the attack on Parliament.

AYODHYA DISPUTE: Vajpayee called for the speedy resolution of a row over a holy site in Ayodhya that has plunged India into its worst religious crisis in a decade, adds Reuters.

“It should become a national effort to resolve this as it is hurting efforts to maintain religious peace,” he told parliament.

“The Ayodhya dispute has to be resolved soon. We mustn’t let this dispute fester.”

Vajpayee said the government would ask a court to speed up hearings of a half-century-old case over ownership of the site claimed by Hindus and Muslims and said efforts should also be made to resolve the dispute outside the courts.


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