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|January 15, 1999||
PM blasts Sena, asserts that nobody can stop Pak cricket tour
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today took his extremist Shiv Sena ally head on when he asserted that the India-Pakistan Test series and the New Delhi-Lahore bus service would come to pass. "Nobody can stop them," he told a delegation of prominent former sportsmen in New Delhi today.
Referring to the act of some Shiv Sena goons digging up the pitch at the Ferozeshah Kotla stadium in New Delhi in a bid to prevent the series, Vajpayee retorted, "What is so brave about digging up a cricket pitch in the dark of the night?"
"Agar yeh log aatankwad se itnehi pareshaan hain to jaayen aur saamna karen [If these people (the Shiv Sena) are so concerned about terrorism, they should go and confront the terrorists]. They should go to the affected areas and help the victims of terrorism," he said.
The prime minister said sport is an activity that can bring the people of the two countries together and should continue "in all circumstances".
Earlier, speaking to the Pakistani officials who arrived in New Delhi last night on a trial run of the Lahore-Delhi bus, he said better people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan would go a long way in normalising relations between the neighbours.
''We want friendly relations with Pakistan and the stress must be laid on more people-to-people contacts,'' he said.
Pakistani High Commissioner in India Ashraf Jehangir Qazi was also present.
Vajpayee was happy that the two countries were on the verge of starting the bus service between the historic cities of Lahore and New Delhi.
Pointing out that customs clearance took a lot of time while travelling between the two countries by train, Vajpayee said efforts would be made to reduce this for the bus passengers.
During the fifteen-minute meeting, the prime minister also discussed with the Pakistani delegation how roads between the two cities could be improved and how more facilities could be provided to the passengers.
They also considered the steps to be taken immediately to start a bus service from Pakistan to Kokrapar in Rajasthan.
Asked in a lighter vein by a reporter after the meeting whether he would visit Pakistan by air or by train, Vajpayee said, "It is a suggestion for action."
The delegation members referred to the good food provided to them on their way to Delhi and said roads in India are good.
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