Gilani is a man of peace : PM

Addu/New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday described his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani as a "man of peace" after their meeting in Maldives, triggering a slugfest between the BJP and Congress.

At a joint press meet with Gilani on the margins of the SAARC Summit, Singh said, "I have always regarded Prime Minister Gilani as a man of peace. Every time I have met him in the last three years, this belief has been further strengthened."

The Prime Minister went on to state that "the time has come to write a new chapter in the history of our relationship".

Contesting his statement, BJP said Pakistan has done nothing to stop terror acts emanating from its soil against India. "The Prime Minister of India has erred in describing Gilani as a man of peace. The central issue between India and Pakistan has been cross-border terrorism and there is nothing Pakistan has done to warrant the impression that they are serious about tackling the issue," BJP leader and former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha said.

Sinha said the Prime Minister seemed to be "oblivious" to what his own people were saying.

Congress was quick to denounce Sinha`s criticism saying the Opposition party`s memory is narrow and it would be better if it first looked into its own track record vis-a-vis Pakistan when NDA was in the power.

"BJP`s memory is not only weak but also very narrow. Before making any such comments, it should look into its own track record. Before making such light comments, BJP should check its knowledge of diplomacy," AICC spokesperson Manish Tewari said.

He added, "I want to ask BJP, who took the bus to Lahore. Did nothing happen after the Lahore step. Who attacked on Parliament, the Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. Then why (the NDA Prime Minister) Atal Behari Vajpayee invited Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to India. Who gave the certificate of secularism to Muhammad Ali Jinnah?"

Asked at a late night briefing in Addu what made Singh describe Gilani as a man of peace, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said, "I think Prime Minister`s assessment was made on the basis of his frequent meetings and discussions he has had with him over our PM`s pursuit of peace coupled with the desire expressed by him that dialogue should take place in an atmosphere free from hostile environment. Prime Minister Gilani also shared this view," he said.