India and Pakistan were close to a non-territorial solution-says ManmohanMay 3, 2009
NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan were close to a ‘non-territorial solution’ to end all their bilateral problems before Gen Pervez Musharraf got entangled with domestic difficulties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday.
He told CNN-IBN channel that India harboured no ill-will towards Pakistan. On the domestic front, he saw in Congress party star campaigner Rahul Gandhi a good future prime minister although he predicted that his ruling UPA coalition would be returned to power after the ongoing elections were over on May 16.
Dr Singh had tried very hard to improve relations with Pakistan ‘and yet today those are at their lowest ebb in five years. Could it have been avoided?’ he was asked.
‘It was avoidable if Pakistan had a strong purposeful government,’ the prime minister replied. ‘I have always believed a strong peaceful moderate Pakistan is in India’s interests. We worked very hard on that and in fact I and Gen Musharraf had reached nearly an agreement, a non-territorial solution to all problems but then General Musharraf got into many difficulties with the chief justice and other fronts and therefore the whole process came to a halt.’
A dip in the relations following the terror outrage in Mumbai last November required Pakistan to act against those using its territory to launch attacks against India, said Mr. Singh.
‘I still believe we have no ill-will towards Pakistan,’ Dr Singh said. Our only concern is Pakistan should cooperate with us, not allowing the territory of Pakistan to be used for acts of terror. We wish the government well. I’ve often said we can choose our friends but not our neighbours.’
Given another chance at power he would focus on agriculture, education and rural health, he said. About the moment he was handed the job in May 2004 as India’s prime minister, Dr Singh said he was given a two-day notice by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
‘Mrs. Gandhi told me 48 hours before. I tried to resist, arguing that she was the best person to unify the party,’ Dr Singh said.
‘I told her I had my limitations that I have no mass following, but she said ‘no’. She had looked around and I would have to undertake the responsibility and the faith she gave me added to the burden of the office I was going to assume.’
Dr Singh survived a close call in a parliamentary vote late last year after the Left Front walked out of the coalition over his close ties with then US President George W. Bush. But Dr Singh did not rule out getting the communists to support him again.
‘Politics is the art of the possible. Who do we reach out to and who do we not reach this is a matter we can only talk about when the election results are known. We have worked with the Left before… for four years they were our partners.’
‘I have enjoyed working with the Left. I have many friends. I think Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is a very good friend of mine.’
The Communist-led Front wanted India to renegotiate a civilian nuclear deal with the United States which led to their turning against Dr Manmohan Singh. That deal was still not negotiable, the prime minister said.
‘There is no question of giving up the deal. That situation will not arise. But no patriotic Indian would suggest that a deal that required so much hard work, ended India’s nuclear isolation at tremendous cost when the chips are down. I don’t think any serious-minded Indian party would ask that we should annul the deal.’