PM Extends ‘hand Of Friendship’ To Pak
28 October 2009
Times of India
: On his first visit to Jammu & Kashmir after getting a second straight term in office, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday asked Pakistan to accept India’s hand of friendship and also sent signals that the Centre was committed to unconditional dialogue with all Kashmiri groups to resolve the state’s problems. ‘‘We’ll talk to anyone with meaningful ideas for promoting peace in Kashmir,’’ said the PM in a speech before inaugurating railway’s Anantnag-Qazigund section. ‘‘We want to take all sections of people with us in resolving J&K’s political and economic problems.’’ The PM said the government would engage only with those who give up violence. ‘‘We’ve held discussions with different groups and a number of round table conferences. All issues were discussed and we tried to give voice to the demands of all sections,’’ he said. The PM’s offer for unconditional talks comes amid calls from the Kashmiri political leadership for resuming negotiations with separatists at a time when militant violence in the state is at an all-time low. A Congress leader, who visited Srinagar in September and met some Hurriyat leaders, is believed to be involved in setting up the negotiations. The separatists had stayed away from the three round-table meetings in 2005, calling them futile. The meetings couldn’t achieve much and only exposed regional faultlines in J&K with representatives of the state’s three regions clashing with each other. Both National Conference and People’s Democratic Party have thrown their weight behind Centre-separatist dialogue. This was also a major election issue and chief minister Omar Abdullah is learned to have lobbied hard for the opening of communication links. According to sources, the Centre seems keen on talks and could offer a slew of CBMs like reduction of troops in urban areas and abrogation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. On terrorism, the PM said it was essential for Islamabad to control it for a productive dialogue. ‘‘If there are non-state actors in Pakistan, it’s Pakistan’s duty to bring them to book, destroy their camps and eliminate their infrastructure,’’ he said, adding that the tactic of compromising with the terrorists and using them for political purposes was all wrong. ‘‘Eventually, they turn against you and bring destruction,’’ he said. The PM said the two countries had the most productive discussions ever between 2004 and 2007, when violence began to decline. ‘‘Intensive discussions were held on all issues including J&K,’’ he said, and added that terrorism was a major hurdle before progress. ‘‘Terrorists want permanent enmity between India and Pakistan,’’ the PM said. The PM said unprecedented resources were committed for reconstruction of the state, but the benefits were slow in trickling down. ‘‘This should change. We need to speed up development,’’ he said, additionally stating that the Centre wants to strengthen the state government to implement a strong development agenda. ‘‘The era of violence is coming to an end. The public sentiment is for peace and resolution,’’ Singh said.