PM warns Pakistan

Visa Facility Put On Hold; Hockey Players Sent Back

ANIL ANAND

New Delhi, Jan 15: Politics seems to have taken precedence over diplomacy as the Congress-led UPA Government Tuesday wilted under pressure mounted by a section of the Opposition and media vis a vis Pakistan after the recent LoC clashes. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh did some plain speaking warning Pakistan that business as usual may not be possible between the two countries.
The first casualty was the process of issuing visas on arrival to Pakistani senior citizens at Wagah border, which was to begin on Tuesday, which has since been delayed. India put on hold the facility and sent back home all nine Pakistani hockey players amid tough talk by Prime Minister that “it cannot be business as usual” with Pakistan.
The Indian action came amidst rising anger among political parties over the beheading of an Indian soldier and mutilation of the body of another allegedly by Pakistan and demands for tough action. Prime Minister conveyed this sentiment in a stern warning to Islamabad while replying to media-persons’ queries on the sidelines of the Army Day function here today. “After this barbaric act there cannot be business as usual (with Pakistan),” he said.
He emphasized that “Those responsible for this crime will have to be brought to book” and hoped “Pakistan realizes this”. When pointed out that Pakistan was in a denial mode on the cross-LoC attack, Singh said, “we will keep trying”. India was to operationally the long-delayed visa-on- arrival facility to senior citizens of Pakistan today but quietly put it on hold indefinitely. The facility was to be accorded for those above 65 years crossing the Attari-Wagah border by foot.
Government sources said the decision was taken after several agencies sought clarifications on facilities to be offered to the Pakistani citizens.
The visa on arrival facility under the new visa agreement between India and Pakistan signed in September 2012 to ease cross-border travel as part of Confidence Building Measures (CBM).
No new date has been fixed for operationalisation of the visa on arrival facility to the Pakistani senior citizens.
“We will take a decision at an appropriate time,” Union Home Secretary R K Singh said.
The simmering border tension also spilled over to the sporting arena with a rattled Hockey India deciding to send back all the nine Pakistani players taking part in its high-profile league.
With an apparent nudge from the government and in the midst of threatened protests by right-wing elements, Hockey India took the decision to send back the Pakistani players considering the “extra-ordinary circumstances”.
“After discussion with all the stakeholders, the Hockey India and Pakistan Hockey Federation have mutually decided to send them (Pakistan players) back due to an extra-ordinary situation which has arisen,” Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra told reporters here.
Cricket was also not spared. Fearing trouble due to Pakistani players’ presence in the upcoming Women’s World Cup in the city, the BCCI has left it on the International Cricket Council to take a final call on the venues for the team from across the border.
The matter was discussed at the Board’s all-powerful Working Committee and it was decided to convey to the ICC the situation prevailing in the country.
BCCI President N Srinivasan said the issue was now for the ICC to decide. The Prime Minister, who was responding to reporters’ questions here at the Army Day reception hosted by Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh, refused to discuss options vis-a-vis Pakistan when asked about it.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said India has taken a “very firm position” on the beheading issue with Pakistan as the act is “totally unacceptable and barbaric”.
Referring to yesterday’s Flag Meeting between India and Pakistan on the LoC, he said, “we may not be happy with the outcome but the process is still on.”
He indicated that the incident would have impact on the bilateral engagement with Pakistan although there would not be total freeze. The incident would be factored in while scheduling meetings etc, the External Affairs Minister said.
On the government’s decision to put visa-on-arrival on hold, Khurshid said it has not been called off but only deferred. “Nobody has utilized it as yet,” he added.
Asked whether India has set any timeline for Pakistan to act, Khurshid said, “there is no timeline. But we are actually pressing (Pakistan) very hard.”
On its part, the BJP continued to build pressure on the Government to be tough with Pakistan. Following up Sushma Swaraj’s statement to avenge the death of two soldiers in a similar fashion, the party on Tuesday attacked the Government alleging that it has failed to protect the nation’s honour. “This government has shown that it is neither capable of protecting the boundaries nor the dignity of its citizens,” a senior BJP leader said. WITH INPUTS FROM PTI

Lastupdate on : Tue, 15 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 15 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 16 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST




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