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The House unites to secure the homeland

Keeping their differences aside, the Opposition and ruling coalition sent out a united message through a resolution condemning the Mumbai terror strikes by “elements from Pakistan” and fully backed the Government to undertake measures it may deem necessary to “safeguard national security”.

| New Delhi |
December 12, 2008 2:14:04 am

The Prime Minister apologised to the nation for not preventing “this dastardly act” in Mumbai, the Home Minister rolled out a revamped internal security roadmap, the Leader of Opposition offered full support to the Government and the External Affairs Minister, while ruling out war as a solution, sent Pakistan a tough message that if it did not act against elements using its soil to target India “it will result in some sort of situation that we do not want.”

Keeping their differences aside, the Opposition and ruling coalition today sent out a united message through a resolution condemning the Mumbai terror strikes by “elements from Pakistan” and fully backed the Government to undertake measures it may deem necessary to “safeguard national security” and counter “all evil designs against India’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, winding up the Lok Sabha debate on the Mumbai attacks, described Pakistan as the “epicentre of terrorism”, insisting that “the infrastructure of terrorism has to be dismantled permanently… for the good of the entire world community, including the well being of the people of Pakistan themselves.”

Earlier in the day, Advani set the tone for the debate: “The entire nation is united to win the war against terrorism, has a unanimous view. There are no differences between the Government and the Opposition. There are no differences because of languages, religions and communities. This is our internal democracy in which we are proud of our differences. I would like to emphasise that this is a war-like situation and we are together on this. I would like to assure the Government that whatever hard steps or decisions that it is planning to take to ensure the victory of the country, (it) will get the support of my party and the NDA.”

After the passage of the resolution, the PM, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee walked up to Advani and, according to BJP sources, Mukherjee complimented Advani for his speech, saying he had “set the tone” for the debate.

While Manmohan Singh told Lok Sabha “we have so far acted with utmost restraint, but let not our commitment to civilized norms be misconstrued as a sign of weakness”, Mukherjee, speaking in Rajya Sabha, sent Pakistan a clear message: “If they do not act then it cannot be expected that business-like-usual scenario will continue. It will result in some sort of situation that we do not want.”

In Lok Sabha, when Shiv Sena MP Mohan Rawle asked why India was not attacking Pakistan when it had proof of its involvement, Mukherjee said: “That is not the point. That is not the issue. I am making it quite clear that is not the position. Let us be very clear and frank that is no solution.”

He slammed Pakistan’s move to link the Mumbai tragedy to the resolution of Kashmir, “This is not an India-Pakistan issue. This is not an issue related to Jammu and Kashmir. This is an issue and a part of global terrorism.”

He said Pakistan must come out of the “denial mode” on the existence of terrorists, including “non-state actors”, who operate from the confines of that country. “Did the non-state actors come from heaven, did the non-state actors come from another planet?”

He said India has repeatedly given Pakistan a list of 40 terrorists, including Dawood Ibrahim, with a demand that they be handed over. He expressed the hope that Islamabad would respond positively.

“Action has to be carried to its logical conclusion by banning the organizations and by complete dismantling the infrastructural facilities available on that side to facilitate terrorist infiltration and attacks in India. Lashkar-e-Toiba is a banned organization in Pakistan. But by simply changing names and changing signboards, its activities have continued. How does that help us? The headquarters are the same, the ideologies are the same and activities are the same.”

He said as he informed Parliament of the UN Security Council banning Jamaat-ud-Dawa “within twenty minutes, I heard from our Mission that this man was appearing on television in an interview.”

“(Jaish chief) Masood Azhar has been house-arrested. What does house arrest mean? The law in Pakistan is the same as the Indian Penal Code. The criminal laws are the same. In criminal cases, there are two kinds of custody that can be contemplated — one is judicial custody and the other is police custody. Is this a convincing step?” Mukherjee asked.

P Chidambaram, who was handed charge of Home after the Mumbai attacks, said the Government would take “certain hard decisions”, ranging from strengthening of laws to a National Investigation Agency, to insulate the country from terror strikes.

“I promise, on behalf of the Government, that we will strain every nerve to carry this resolve into determined action. There is one thing that I wish to make clear: given the nature of the threat, we cannot go back to business as usual. In the next few weeks and months, it will be my endeavour to take certain hard decisions and prepare the country and the people to face the challenge of terrorism.”

Chidambaram said the Government proposed to bring a set of Bills “to strengthen the legal provisions relating to the prevention, investigation, prosecution and punishment of terror acts”.

While Parliament presented a united face, the poor attendance did stick out. Not more than 50 members were present during the morning session when Advani spoke and around 90 MPs were there to hear the PM reply to this crucial debate.

Even Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi, who made a plea for political unity, left after his speech. Declaring that the Mumbai terror strikes were a “war on India”, he said a message should go to the perpetrators that there is a “cost” to killing innocent Indians. “If our enemies view us as one, we have to act as one,” he said.

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