Let's put our differences aside, build new J&K: PM
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Let's put our differences aside, build new J&K: PM

PM is chairing the roundtable meeting that is underway in New Delhi sans the participation of major separatist groups.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 17:55 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Seeking partnerships to construct a naya (new) Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said that those who did not participate in the roundtable meet will join once they see obvious merits in sharing ideas.

In his opening remarks at the roundtable conference, which brings together political leaders and intellectuals from all the three regions of the state, Manmohan said, "We can reconcile our differences, if we are guided by this vision.

"I am also confident that others who are not here will eventually join us once they see the obvious merits in sharing ideas and working together."

The Prime Minister made this veiled reference to the Hurriyat Conference and other separatist groups, who had spurned the offer of joining the roundtable conference.

While thanking all those who responded to the invitation, the Prime Minister said, "I know each one of you has given a great deal of thought to the situation in the state".

Sharing his thoughts and idea behind holding the conference, the Prime Minister said "Jammu and Kashmir has been on top of the agenda of our government...The economic revitalisation of the state has been a priority area."

He said that his government had initiated a political dialogue with those outside the mainstream electoral system including Hurriyat Conference. "I have stated on several occasions that I am personally willing to meet and talk to anyone from the state who eschews violence."

He said Jammu and Kashmir has tremendous economic potential and the talent of its unparalleledtalent. "It can, and must become a model of real empowerment of the people and comprehensive security for them," he said.

The Prime Minister said, "Today, I seek your partnership to construct a new Jammu and Kashmir. A naya (new) Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, which is symbolised by peace, prosperity and people's power.

"You are all the real stakeholders in the future of Kashmir, and it is built only through your energetic participation that a new Jammu and Kashmir can truly be built. Let this round-table be remembered as an important step in building such a Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

About the ongoing conference, he said, "A roundtable is a dialogue. No one preaches and no one just listens. This is a dialogue of equals who promise to work together."

He said that the meeting would achieve "historical importance" only "if we are able to unleash a process by which we can arrive at a workable blueprint that can help create a new chapter in Kashmir history. Not by compromising on one's idea, but in a spirit of mutual tolerance, understanding and accomodation."

The roundtable conference on Jammu and Kashmir began in New Delhi on Saturday sans the participation of any separatist outfit, including Hurriyat Conference.

The roundtable, for the first time, brings political leaders and intellectuals of all the three regions of the state together.

During the meeting, nearly 45 representatives of political parties and intellectuals will put forth their viewpoints on how to find a lasting peace in the state.

Founding member of JKLF Hashim Qureshi, who had hijacked an Indian Airlines aircraft to Lahore in 1971, will be the only separatist face at the meeting.

Qureshi, who has arrived in the national capital for the meeting, accused Hurriyat Conference and JKLF of having double standards and said, "If they can talk to the Prime Minister privately, why do they shy away from an open dialogue."

The meeting is being attended by political leaders, including state Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, National Conference President Omar Abdullah, PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti, Union Minister Saifuddin Soz, Congress leader Karan Singh, state BJP chief Nirmal Singh, K Chawang (Ladakh), Agnishekar, MK Kaw and Ajay Charngu (Kashmiri pandit leaders).

The Prime Minister will be assisted by Home Minister Shivraj Patil, National Security Advisor MK Narayanan, Home Secretary VK Duggal, Centre's interlocutor on Kashmir NN Vohra and Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister TKA Nair in the talks.

The process of declining the invitation was set rolling by firebrand pro-Pakistan Jamaat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani which was followed by JKLF chief Yasin Malik and separatist leader Shabir Shah.

The Hurriyat Conference, while spurning the offer, termed the roundtable meet as against the ethos of triangular discussion which was being held by the conglomerate with India and Pakistan.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah would also not be attending the meeting as he has dubbed the entire exercise as a waste of time.

Abdullah's estranged brother-in-law and former Chief Minister GM Shah, who heads Awami National Conference, has also decided to remain away from the talks.

First Published: Feb 25, 2006 12:05 IST