Saturday, October 11, 2008

Doctor leaves Kashmir, repeats prescription

Srinagar, October 11: The Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh today concluded his two day visit to Jammu and Kashmir stopping short of  annoucing a major political package but repeated that the Government was ready to have dialogue with all sections of people including Hurriyat. 
The Prime Minister reiterated that borders cannot be changed but made irrelevant and said the government of India was ready to have dialogue with all sections of people in the state including Hurriyat and those ‘who have so far opted out of the political process.’
“Invitation is open to all. I urge that whoever has complaints and grievances should come forward for a dialogue. At an appropriate stage, I would also be happy to meet such people,” the Prime Minister said while talking to reporters on Saturday evening at SKICC. 
The Prime Minister also refused to give any assurance regarding revocation of the controversial armed forces special powers act (AFSPA) and demilitarization, saying if the situation becomes normal, these things could be done. “The situation today is not that sort. And I can’t make any promise,” he said. The pro-India political parties have been demanding the revocation of the act for past several years.  
The Prime Minister in response to a question about discontinuation of dialogue with Hurriyat said he had two meetings with the representatives of Hurriyat Conference. “I also met some other leaders individually,” he said. The Hurriyat, Prime Minister said, raised certain issues and then they stated they would come back with specific demands. However, he said, they didn’t return with specific demands. The PM said the government was ready to discuss all issues with any section of people in India and “Kashmir is part of our country.” “I welcome everyone for talks and I am not closing doors,” Singh said.
The Prime Minister Singh laid emphasis in normalizing relations with Pakistan. He said good relations with Pakistan, which he described as “our very important neighbor” was essential part of government policy and said the government of India seeks the normalization of relations with Pakistan and a solution of all issues including Jammu and Kashmir “through dialogue and peaceful negotiation in violence-free atmosphere.”
He said it was undeniable that much has changed between India and Pakistan in the past some years. “Trade, people to people contact, cultural exchanges are altering the landscape of our relations,” he said adding that he would like entire Jammu and Kashmir to be part of this wider process.[Photo]The Prime Minister said if both India and Pakistan approach issues with an open and friendly mind, “We will be able to put the past behind us.” “Within this framework, borders become doors to cooperation as we shun violence, condemn terrorism and embrace the spirit of a new approach to bilateral relations,” he said. 
Asked whether the Government of India would go for tripartite dialogue on Kashmir, he said India and Pakistan were committed to the dialogue process and the Government was not opposed to having dialogue with any section of Kashmiri people. “Let these options be explored first,” he said.
The PM evaded a question about early elections and said in democracy elections were part of the public opinion. The Government of India, the PM said, was committed to ensure free and fair elections in the state. He said election, not gun, was arbitrator of people’s destiny. 

In response to a question about disproportionate use of force by the state government in Kashmir and Jammu causing fatalities of Muslims in Kashmir and burning of Kashmiri drivers in Jammu, Dr Singh said loss of human life was a matter of concern and deep regret and New Delhi was aware about these sad developments. He said, “We have to create an atmosphere so that these incidents would not take place.”

The PM however admitted that polarization has taken place in the state and said it should not have happened. He said the communal divide should end.

The recent incidents in Jammu and Kashmir, he said, indicate that there was some resentment towards the Government among a section of youth here on certain issues.

“It has always been our belief that even the most difficult issues can be resolved through dialogue,” he said, reiterating that the government will welcome dialogue with all sections of people.

When asked why talks were held with Amarnath Sangarsh Samithi in Jammu and not with the Coordination Committee in Kashmir, he said the Governor, who was sitting adjacent to him, has informed him that they were given offer of dialogue but they didn’t respond. He asked the Governor to initiate the process and redress the grievance of every section.
The PM described Amarnath pilgrimage as shining example of religious harmony and said it represents one of the finest examples of “our composite culture where Hindu pilgrims have been looked after by their Muslim brothers for hundreds of years.” He said it was regrettable that there was violence because of “differences on a piece of land transferred to the Board.” “I express my sympathy with friends and relatives of those who lost their lives in the violence,” he said.
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