A fragmented Opposition combined on Tuesday to launch a blistering attack on the government in the Lok Sabha for its 'failure' at the Agra summit and letting Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf have a 'field day at India's expense'.
Although at loggerheads with each other, both the Congress and the
Samajwadi Party spoke the same language while criticising the government's handling of the talks between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf.
They were unanimous that it was President Mushrraf who benefited most from the entire exercise.
The two sides failed to come up with a joint declaration as India refused to accept the two countries had a dispute over Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan was loath to admit to aiding militancy in the state.
Speaking during the debate on the Agra summit, Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Madhavrao Scindia said New Delhi's handling of the summit was 'amateurish'.
Scindia flayed the government for not being 'communicative' at the summit even as Musharraf and his officials spoke freely to the press.
"Even Indian journalists had to talk to Pakistani officials to get details on the summit. This fueled rumours and speculation that India had no strategy," Scindia said.
"At the end (of the summit), we were all familiar with Pakistan's position but not India's," he pointed out.
However, New Delhi has maintained that Musharraf's media blitz was uncharacteristic in the conduct of diplomacy.
Referring to the government's perceived shortcoming in Agra, Scindia said, "The government's flip-flop nature reaches new heights when it comes to dealing with Pakistan."
The Congress leader wondered whether 'there was pressure from other quarters, or was it (the talks) a ploy to distract attention from the results of the assembly polls."
"Sound diplomacy must be accompanied by sound media communication," Scindia asserted, referring to Pakistan's superior media-management in Agra.
Scindia blamed the heightened violence in J&K on the 'failure' in Agra and warned the prime minister 'not go to Pakistan without a structured agenda'.
"The Agra summit has pushed us back and not forward. The Kashmir killings
are a direct result of the government's mishandling of the summit," he said
referring to the killing of over 40 people in the week since the summit ended.
"The desire for dialogue with Pakistan must be pursued but your implementation was amateurish. No careful assessment was made of Pakistan's strategy," Scindia pointed out.
He also ridiculed the government's statement that no agenda was fixed
for the summit because Pakistan preferred it to be kept open.
Earlier, initiating the debate on the Agra summit in the House, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav pointed out that while India won all the four wars it fought with Pakistan, the latter grabbed the advantage during the talks that followed.
He referred to the fact that while the Vajpayee government had consistently maintained that it would only talk to Pakistan if there was a democratically-elected government in Islamabad, it had done a volte-face and had hastily invited Gen Musharraf for talks.
The SP chief said Vajpayee should have told Musharraf before inviting him to India that Kashmir would be part of the talks, thus preventing a lot of embarassment to the country.
He demanded to know how Gen Musharraf had got away by saying that 'Kashmiris are fighting a freedom struggle', on Indian soil.
In a counter-attack, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentary party spokesman V K Malhotra asked whether 'we have to take lessons in patriotism from these people (the Congress), who had frittered away Indian territory in the aftermath of the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars."
He contended that the erstwhile Congress governments had released
93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war but failed to secure the release of 54 Indian soldiers imprisoned in Pakistan.
Malhotra, in fact, held Congress governments squarely responsible for the growing incidents of cross-border terrorism and the present state of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir.
The debate will be resumed on Wednesday.
With inputs from Indo-Asian News Service
The Indo-Pak Summit: Complete Coverage
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