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Indian MPs Protest Joint Statement with Pakistan

Opposition politicians in the Indian Parliament have staged a noisy walkout to express their anger about the joint statement with Pakistan signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this month.

Opposition protest on the floor of India's Parliament had the speaker of the Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar, at wit's end in a repeated plea for calm.

"Please address the chair. Please address the chair! Honorable member, what is this going on? What is this going on?" asked Kumar.

What was going on was an especially bitter and intense display of dismay among the opposition. It contends foreign powers - implicitly the United States - may have arm-twisted India's prime minister into signing the July 16 joint statement seen as appeasing Pakistan.

Raising particular ire is a reference to Pakistan's troubled Balochistan province in which Islamabad has accused New Delhi of encouraging rebellion.

Lal Krishna Advani is the leader of the BJP, the Bhartiya Janata Party.

"Why is Balochistan mentioned here, which is a joint statement, a joint India-Pakistan statement? And for the first time in all these years. They have been making this allegation earlier also. And I am sure that the prime minister in his talk with Mr. Gilani must have told him that we have nothing to do with it," said Advani.

The finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, who until recently was foreign minister, told Parliament Balochistan was a "unilateral" reference made by Pakistan in the joint statement. But he went on to say India wants to make it clear it is not meddling in the affairs of its neighbor and long-time rival.

"We do not believe in exporting our ideology. We do not believe in exporting our sphere of influence. We do not believe in the interference in the internal matters of any other country," Mukherjee said.

The BJP, also upset that the joint statement agreed to de-link talking about terrorism from the overall peace process, then staged a walk-out from Parliament.

There is little else the opposition can do at this stage. Mr. Singh's Congress Party and its allies enjoy a comfortable majority in the national legislature, which would make any vote of no confidence a futile exercise.