BJP hails Modi-Sharif meet, Congress flays it

New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) 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.

The Bharatiya Janata Party said the talks were a success because “Pakistan has accepted our definition of terrorism”.

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 was a breakthrough… the reason for this is very clear as for the first time Pakistan has accepted our definition of terrorism,” BJP leader M.J. Akbar said at a press conference here.

“For the first time, Pakistan has accepted 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 also said that the 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 at Ufa shows signs of positive movement. The engagement at different levels will hopefully open new possibilities,” the minister said in a tweet.

“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.

“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,” Congress leader Meem Afzal told reporters here.

“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’ alleged 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.

The BJP pointed out that both sides agreed to expedite 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 glimmer of hope in the relationship 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.

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