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Gandhi Discusses Pakistan Conflict

June 18, 1999

LUCKNOW, India (AP) _ The Indian government’s handling of the undeclared war with Pakistan will be a campaign issue, opposition leader Sonia Gandhi indicated Friday.

In war, India stands united, Mrs. Gandhi told an election rally of 25,000 people in the central Indian city of Varanasi. But when the elections come in three months, the government ``will owe explanations to the country.″

The government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee collapsed in April, just a few weeks before India discovered the infiltration of hundreds of Islamic guerrillas across the cease-fire line in Indian-held Kashmir.

``Today, Pakistanis have dared to cross our borders just because of laxity on the part of the government,″ she said.

It was one of Mrs. Gandhi’s first campaign appearances since she abruptly quit the leadership of her Congress party over criticism that her foreign birth made her unsuitable to lead the nation. The Italian-born widow of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi retracted her resignation after her most vocal critics were expelled from the party.

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