Centre will provide security cover to Taslima: Pranab


Bangalore : The central government will provide security cover to Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen if she returns to Kolkata, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said here Thursday.

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“Promising security to an individual lies with state governments. If the West Bengal government seeks the central government’s assistance in providing security to Taslima, we will be glad to do so,” Mukherjee told reporters on the sidelines of a function.

Mukherjee’s statement comes in the wake of veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu’s remarks Tuesday that Taslima could return to Kolkata if she chose to but the central government should ensure her security.

Taslima is currently staying at an undisclosed place in Delhi under protection of the central government after she was forced to leave Kolkata Nov 22 following protests by radicals over her controversial book “Dwikhandita” (Split in Two) that was banned by the Bengal government.

On the recent Sino-Indian joint military exercise at the Kunming military academy in Yunnan province of southwest China, Mukherjee said it was held to demonstrate that both the countries were working together on various bilateral issues.

“The Hand-in-Hand 2007 exercise is part of India’s security strategy. The armed forces had such exercises with Russia, the US, Britain, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand over the years keeping in view our security concerns,” Mukherjee said after addressing the annual conference of ‘Nikhil Bharat Banga Sahitya Sammelan’ at K.R. Puram on the outskirts of the city.

Referring to the ongoing talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for safeguards on the civilian nuclear deal with the US, the minister said the government would brief the Left parties on the draft agreement with the IAEA before signing it.

“As agreed upon at the coordination committee meeting Nov 16, we will brief the Left Front on the discussions with IAEA before signing the India-specific safeguards agreement. The talks are still on. The next (third) round is due in mid-January. We will keep the Left parties informed about the progress made in the discussions at Vienna.”

Contrary to expectations earlier, the government is not in a position to finalise the pact on safeguards with IAEA by this month-end due to the complexity and singular requirements of the Indian government on the separation plan of its civilian and military nuclear facilities, he said.