Singh defends Pakistan policy

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh defended Wednesday his Pakistan policy as the opposition accused him of going soft on arch-rival Islamabad over the issue of terrorism.

"I simply refuse to believe we have broken any national consensus," Singh told parliament, insisting that his government remained adamant that Pakistan must "act effectively against terrorism" before any resumption of suspended peace talks.

However, "It is in Pakistan's interest and ours to try to make peace," he said.

Singh has faced criticism since he and Pakistan Premier Yusuf Raza Gilani agreed in a joint statement earlier this month that the resumption of a dialogue should not be linked to Pakistani action on terrorism.

Critics in India said the agreement effectively relieved the pressure on Pakistan to crack down on militant groups India blames for repeated attacks on its soil, including last year's assault on Mumbai that left 166 dead.

"All the waters from the seven seas will not wash away the shame this government has heaped on India," Yashwant Sinha, a senior member of the main opposition BJP party said in parliament, amid shouts of "shame shame."

But Singh denied that he had made any policy concessions to Gilani.

"Pakistan must defeat terrorism before being consumed by it and the current leadership understands the need for action," Singh said.

He also argued that his government has done more than a previous BJP-led administration to force Pakistan to act against cross-border militants, and pointed to the information shared by Islamabad on the Mumbai attacks suspects.

"This is the first time Pakistan has briefed us. It has never happened before," Singh said.

At the same time, he reiterated that further steps were expected.

"We need evidence that action is being taken to outlaw, disarm and shut down the terrorist groups and their front organisations that still operate on Pakistani soil and which continue to pose a great threat to our country," he said.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training cross-border militants in Muslim-majority Kashmir -- a charge Islamabad vehemently denies.

The two nuclear-armed countries have fought three wars since independence in 1947 and came dangerously close to a fourth following an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 by militants New Delhi said came from Pakistan.