May 2005 News

I'm not mandated to redraw borders, says Manmohan

30 May 2005
The Daily Times
Iftikhar Gilani

New Delhi: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Monday that he did not have a mandate to redraw borders. Talking at an informal meeting with members of the Delhi-based Foreign Correspondents Club of South Asia, he commented on President Pervez Musharraf's proposal and reiterated that India would never accept further divisions on religious lines. However, possibilities could be worked out within these limitations, he added.Elaborating on the possibilities, he offered developing a situation where it was not necessary to redraw borders and making Kashmiris that they would not know whether they were in Muzaffarabad or Srinagar.Asked about the level of autonomy his government was willing to allow Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian prime minister said the state already enjoyed a unique position in the Indian Union. 'The state has its own constitution and last assembly elections were recognised worldwide as reasonably free,' he said. However, he agreed that India would look into greater autonomy if the need arose.He also asked Pakistan to take similar steps of democratisation and strengthen the process of governance on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC). 'Pakistan can take similar steps in their part, which can bring a great degree of complementalities,' he said. His government was talking to various groups in Jammu and Kashmir, he said, but refused to give a deadline for autonomy to the state.Manmohan also said India was willing to issue passports and normal travel documents to Kashmiri leaders to allow them to travel Pakistan. 'We will never stand in their way to travel to Pakistan, but this particular way is meant only to travel within the territory of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir,' he said. He reminded All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leaders that the permits being issued to them did not allow them to travel beyond Muzaffarabad.Mentioning the areas of cooperation between India and Pakistan, he said that besides people-to-people contact and trade, both countries could work on joint projects like that of water management and resource management. He said there was great scope to move forward. Significantly, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had recently asked for joint power projects between India and Pakistan on Kashmiri rivers.About the timeframe for resolving Kashmir, the Indian prime minister said it would be over ambitious on his part to set a timeframe. However, he offered to work together with President Musharraf to find a 'meaningful solution' to difficult problems.


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