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|February 10, 1999||
PM to take bus to Lahore on February 20
J Sesha Sai on-board Air India's Mahendra Varman
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today confirmed that he would go to Pakistan by the Delhi-Lahore bus on its inaugural service on February 20.
Asserting that India was keen on improving relations with Pakistan, Vajpayee said the confidence-building measures between the countries would continue. He said the forthcoming talks would be held at the political level. He said even the Opposition parties want the ties with Islamabad to improve. As for Kashmir, he said the talks would continue.
Asked who would accompany him to Pakistan, he said the details were being worked out.
Vajpayee's visit -- the first one by an Indian PM in 10 years -- comes in the wake of the US pressure on both the neighbours to continue talks on "strategic restructuring regime".
Vajapayee and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharief had discussed the idea of starting a bus service between New Delh and Lahore on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York in September last.
Asked if the Gujarat chief minister too would quit following the resignation of Orissa Chief Minister J B Patnaik, he said the situation in the two states was different. "There has been no rape, murder or attack on any member of the Christian community in Gujarat.''
Ruling out the possibility of imposing President's rule in Orissa, he said a CBI enquiry would ordered into the attacks, and a deadline of two months has been set for the submission of the investigation report.
He said there was no threat to his government, and that all the allies have reiterated their support for the government before he left New Delhi for Port of Spain.
Asked why no Sangh Parivar member had been arrested despite its alleged involvement in the attacks against the Christian community, he said it was unfair to make such allegations. "The government has been pressurising the states concerned. In fact, it was the Centre which had suggested that a CBI enquiry should be ordered into the Orissa incidents. ''
He also said the Christians who had called on him in Trinidad and Tobago had not raised a single question about the attacks, reflecting their faith in the Indian government.
Asked about Congress president Sonia Gandhi's statement that his government would fall in three months, he said, " Phal pakh raha hai. Koi log jholi failke rakhe hain...Koi log pulav pakh rahe hain ...(the fruit is ripening, but before that some people are standing below with their bag to catch it when it falls, while others have started preparing a king-sized meal in anticipation)."
He said his government was stable and strong and faces no threat from any quarter.
As for Trinamul Congress chief Mamta Banerjee, he said there should not be any problem as she had herself said that he would announce measures that would strengthen his coalition government.
He also said an emissary had talked to AIADMK chief J Jayalalitha.
Asked if he was facing more problems from the Sangh Parivar than from his allies, he said there was no truth in such allegations.
Disclosing that the talks with the US on CTBT had not reached a stage where the Opposition could be taken into confidence, he said further talks were necessary.
He said the Indian offer of 'no-first-use' of nuclear weapons still stands, and that the issue would be discussed with the Pak PM.
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