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BJP hails Modi-Sharif meet, Congress flays it

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New Delhi : The BJP on Friday termed the talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif a “breakthrough” while the Congress criticised the meeting, wondering what “circumstances” warranted it.

BJP ally Shiv Sena called the meeting “unfortunate”.

Modi and Sharif held an hour-long meeting on Friday morning on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Ufa city in Russia.

“The meeting is a breakthrough…the reason for this is very clear as for the first time Pakistan has accepted our definition of terrorism. Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope in the bilateral relations. Perhaps, there is an opportunity of taking the relations forward,” BJP leader M.J. Akbar said at a press conference here.

“For the first time, Pakistan has agreed to combat terrorism in ‘all its forms’,” he said, pointing out that Islamabad had, for long, tried to play a nuanced game on this subject by trying to differentiate between good and bad terrorism while for India terrorism was always an unmitigated evil.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the joint statement issued by India and Pakistan in Russia was a “step forward” in normalising bilateral relations.

He said that the proposed meetings between the Border Security Force of India and its Pakistani counterpart would help stabilise the situation on the India-Pakistan border.

“The joint statement is a step forward towards normalising bilateral relations. However, the future outcome will be keenly watched,” Rajnath Singh said.

The minister also welcomed the decision to expedite the trial of Pakistanis involved in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.

However, the Congress criticised Modi’s meeting with Sharif and questioned the BJP’s claim of a “breakthrough” as “laughable”.

“The BJP claims a major breakthrough. This breakthrough in the backdrop of what? Using the words ‘breakthrough’ and a ‘historic understanding’ is laughable,” senior Congress leader and former union minister Anand Sharma said at a press conference here.

“India is expected to make a statement which has depth and maturity,” he added.

Sharma claimed that the government of India had in fact departed from its earlier position on terror mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.

“On the agreement to expedite the 26/11 Mumbai attacks case trial and exchange of voice samples of the accused, we have very strong objections. Especially, on provision of additional input like voice samples. This fundamentally contradicts India’s position. After the investigation, all the voice samples were given to Pakistan,” he said.

Added Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray: “It is unfortunate that Modiji met Nawaz Sharif today (Friday). There has been no change in the conditions (on the border). People have lots of expectations from Modiji. I feel he (Modi) is capable of changing the current situation and the neighbouring country needs to be taught a lesson in a manner it understands.”

Earlier, the BJP pointed out that both sides agreed to expedite the trial in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks case and would exchange voice samples of the accused.

“Pakistan has accepted the voice samples that are the basis of our case. This was the evidence we provided, which was visible to the whole world. Now that Pakistan has accepted this, there is a glimmer of hope in the relations between the two countries,” Akbar said.

The BJP leader also stressed on Modi’s stated position of wanting to improve India’s relations with all its neighbours so that the region can go forward on the path of prosperity.

“…but this prosperity requires peace and this common prosperity is only possible if all the countries take a united view on terrorism,” Akbar said.

Congress leader Meem Afzal added that “Pakistan killed an Indian soldier during ceasefire (on the LoC)…and Prime Minister Modi is meeting Nawaz Sharif…this is the government that made tall claims that they will teach Pakistan a lesson.”

“Today (Friday), the PM is meeting Nawaz Sharif without any reason…we would like to know what were the circumstances that Modi had to invite Sharif for the meeting,” he said.

“We will wait and see what comes out of this meeting,” Afzal said, adding that “Pakistan is threatening to use nuclear weapons against India and this government – who made tall promises before coming to power – is meeting them (Sharif).”

Another Congress leader and party spokesperson Ajay Maken said two Indian soldiers were killed by Pakistan on the Line of Control in the last three days. “The (Indian) prime minister must answer what was the hurry to talk to Pakistan,” he said.

“Just last month, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that as long as Mumbai attacks’ mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi is roaming free, no talks (would be held) with Pakistan. No coordination between external affairs minister and the prime minister,” Maken remarked.

–IANS