Notwithstanding Punjab Congress leaders' criticism of the Badals for the red-carpet welcome to Pakistan Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, Rajya Sabha member and former Congress union minister Dr Manohar Singh Gill on Tuesday praised the Punjab government for "initiating a new chapter in the history of independent India."
The former chief election commissioner said he would write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to provide full support to the Punjab government in carrying forward the initiative taken by both Punjabs.
"It's a new beginning in the history of both Punjabs," the Congress leader said while interacting with HT during his visit to Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), where he was the chief guest during the alumni meet. A delegation from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (Pakistan), led by vice-chancellor Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan, was present on the occasion. As a Punjab-cadre IAS officer, Gill served as the principal secretary with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in the 1980s.
Stressing that India and Pakistan must keep opening more avenues for trade, agriculture and other activities, irrespective of their stand on the Kashmir issue, Gill said he would urged the Centre to open Punjab's borders with Pakistan. He advocated the opening of check posts for trade and travel through Hussainiwala (Ferozepur) and Fazilka.
Gill said he knew the family of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, elder brother of the Pakistan Punjab CM. "Shahbaz Sharif's visit to Punjab indicates that the Pakistan PM must be having serious plans to revive bilateral relations," he added.
"Manmohan Singh has already doing a commendable job to normalise India-Pakistan relations. But in my view, both Punjabs should be allowed to interact more as it was Punjab, on both sides, that bore the burnt of Partition," the Rajya Sabha member said.
Asked to comment on politics within the Congress, he said, "Everybody is aware of the present scenario. I think we should talk about India-Pakistan relations more at this stage."