Vajpayee for negotiated settlement of Kashmir issue
26 March 2004
The News International
AMRITSAR: Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee hailed warming ties with Pakistan in a rally on Friday for his Hindu nationalist supporters at the end of a gruelling nationwide campaign tour by his deputy. Lal Krishna Advani, the deputy prime minister, wound up a 16-day, 4,125-kilometre trip in a bullet-proof mini-bus at Amritsar, where he and Vajpayee addressed some 20,000 people. 'Let's talk about Kashmir and settle that. That is the only way the problem can be resolved. There is no other way out,' Vajpayee said amid a sea of saffron and green flags of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 'I have said many a time to Pakistan, we have fought many wars and what have you gained out of it?' Vajpayee said. 'You have not gained anything and you lost Bangladesh,' he said. 'When bullets used to fly, now we're playing cricket,' Vajpayee said. 'To play you need two teams - two countries - with similar mindsets.' Vajpayee said Indo-Pak bilateral ties have recorded improvement. He expressed the hope this would lead to a permanent peace between the two countries. 'I hope we don't miss this opportunity and this will be permanent peace. This friendship is going to last, as it is in the interest of both the countries,' Vajpayee told the rally. The Indian prime minister said: 'This time we are believing in their humanitarianism and our strength. There is no other option but to solve all problems through talks. We must solve our differences through talks. If not once then twice and thrice.' Vajpayee and Advani wore traditional Sikh turbans at the rally in Amritsar, which hosts the Sikh religion's holiest shrine, the Golden Temple. The BJP is widely tipped to win the election, which is taking place in five rounds from April 20 to May 10, on the back of Vajpayee's personal popularity and strong economic growth triggered by a healthy monsoon.