Lauding the consistent efforts of the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) for not losing hope over the years, union external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said it was the media that would break the ice between the neighbouring countries and we all would relish the water of that
The union minister, after inaugurating the 8th conference of SAFMA, said, "There are many aspirations and demands of SAFMA that have not been met, but still it has not lost hope and is constantly working for the betterment in the South Asian region. All problems cannot be resolved overnight, but there is no reason why we should not work at resolving issues that can be resolved. A lot of efforts have been made in the past."
The minister, while mentioning the new visa regime between India and Pakistan, in a lighter vein said, "Jab mian biwi raazi, to kya karega qaazi" to send a message that if people of India and Pakistan were ready to meet, then there was not much the governments could do.
Terming Punjab as a gateway between the two countries, the minister said there was a great message in the name of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. "There is Parkash when you need light, and there is Badal when you need shade," he said.
Reacting to the demand for the two-year multiple visas for journalists of SAARC nations, the external affairs minister said, "Recently, only India and Pakistan have scripted a new visa regime. Now I will take up the matter personally to convince my colleagues of this."
Saying it was important for the South Asian countries to work together for the prosperity of the region, and for that people to people contact and exchange programmes were a must.
The minister said the media had a great role as nations could communicate through it even when they were not talking.
"We look forward to a day when people can have breakfast in one country, lunch in the other and dinner in another country of the region. We look for the day when even the cabin crews of airlines in the region can understand each other's language and culture."
The union minister said India had always been assisting the South Asian nations in various fields and now there was need for connectivity between South Asian nations.
The minister said India-Pakistan cricket was also a means of coming closer.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal replied to Khurshid's statement saying, "Mian biwi to raazi hain, ab qaazi dekhe kya karna hai (People are ready, it is up to the governments to see how to take it forward)."
Talking about his college days in Lahore, Badal said, "It is time the two governments stepped up efforts and removed all 'walls' so that people of the region faced no difficulty in visiting each other."
The chief minister demanded that the government work for providing a corridor between Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur and Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.
"We can always move ahead if fillip is given to people-to-people contact and for that easy visa norms were a must," he added.
Appreciating the role of the media, the chief minister said the media had a great role to play and was a unifier.
"The way SAFMA is making efforts in the South Asian region is commendable and it is need of the hour that the governments react to create a congenial environment for a better future."
Earlier, Imtiaz Alam, secretary general, SAFMA, said the agenda of SAARC had to go beyond policy barriers and address non-policy barriers, including ensuring free flow of goods, vehicles and services, across the borders so that the goal of an integrated South Asia was achieved, which with inclusion of China "becomes the largest economic regional grouping with no comparable rival".
The conference having a theme 'A South Asian Vision and Union: Opening Minds and Opening Borders' started in Amritsar on Sunday and will end in Lahore on Tuesday. About 200 delegates from various nations, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Afghanistan, are participating.
Later, both Khurshid and Badal paid obeisance at Harmandar Sahib.
'Hope MFN gets operational this year'
Later, talking to reporters on the sidelines of the SAFMA meet, Khurshid said, "Pakistan has already given the Most Favoured Nation status to India and we are hopeful it gets operational by the end of this year."
There are some formalities that need to be followed and they were trying for that, he added.
On the controversy over visa to former Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad, Khurshid said, "There was never a controversy. Our job was just to see that he qualified for the visa and give him the visa. It is his own decision that he is not coming."
There is a great message in the name of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. There is Parkash when you need light, and there is Badal when you need shade.
Salman Khurshid, union external affairs minister
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