India not diffident in tackling boundary issues: Pranab

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Chennai, June 3 (UNI) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today stoutly denied that India has been diffident in countering claims on its territory by neighbours, especially China.

''Boundary issues have taken a long time to sort out,'' the Minister, who was here to review the functioning of the passport offices in the southern states and participate in a public meeting to felicitate Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi on his 85th birthday, told newspersons.

Denying that India had been soft towards China's claims over Arunachal Pradesh and now the northern most tip of Sikkim, he said it had been made clear to China that Arunachal Pradesh was part of India.

''There is no question of any claim by China,'' he said and added that it was wrong to say that India had not been taking a strong stand on these issues.

To a question on the steps taken to curtail incursions across the borders, Mr Mukherjee said the security forces had been put on high alert. ''Tension along the border with China on all sectors has been reduced.'' Parrying a question on Pakistani Minister Ansar Burney issue, he merely said ''the Home Ministry is looking into it.'' Mr Mukherjee said the latest incident of killing of an Indian fisherman by the Lankan Navy had been taken up with that Government.

Answering questions on the progress in the Indo-US nuclear deal and how soon it would be signed, he said ''it is difficult to indicate a specific time.'' Explaining the four stages of the deal, he pointed out that only the first stage had been completed.

Asked if it would be completed before the tenure of the UPA Government ended, he said ''we are trying to complete it. We understand all this.'' More UNI VV GD RL ND1836

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