PM rolls out new peace initiatives
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Friday that it would be a mistake to link a solution to Jammu and Kashmir imbroglio with other issues.
Flagging off the Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus service in Amritsar, Singh said, "We are not afraid of discussing J&K or of finding pragmatic, practical solutions to resolve this issue as well".
The Prime Minister also declared that "meaningful" agreement was possible with Pakistan on Siachen, Sir Creek and Baglihar.
"I am convinced we can move forward, if all concerned are willing to accept the ground realities; if all concerned take a long view of history and our destiny", he said.
Agreement on Siachen possible
Contending that it was possible for India and Pakistan to come to a meaningful agreement on issues like Siachen, Sir Creek and Baglihar, the Prime Minister said "it would be a mistake to link normalisation of other relations with finding a solution to Jammu and Kashmir."
Complimenting Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for taking "bold steps" to curb extremism, he, however, said, "more needs to be done in the interest of both India and Pakistan".
Think the unthinkable
Emphasing that the time has come to "leave behind the animosities and the misgivings of the past", Singh wanted the two countries to "think the unthinkable" of moving together in pursuit of common objective of getting rid of chronic poverty, ignorance and disease that still afflict millions of people in the two countries.
"India and Pakistan must work together to open up new opportunities of economic cooperation, not only in South Asia, but also with West Asia and Central Asia. Cities like Lahore and Amritsar should once again become throbbing international commercial centres serving the entire region", he said.
The two Punjabs can learn from each other
Speaking at length on the economic benefits for both countries from the normalisation of relations, Singh said there were many things that the two Punjabs could learn from each others development experience.
The Prime Minister, who spoke in Punjabi, said "we must encourage people-to-people contacts between actors in civil society, between academics, businessmen, artistes and most importantly, the common people."
He said it was through such contacts that the two countries could explore a vision for a "cooperative common future...Where peace prevails, where relations are friendly, where our citizens rejoice in the well-being of the other country".
Outlining his vision, the Prime Minister said the peace making process must ultimately culminate "in our two countries entering into a Treaty of Peace, Security and Friendship to give meaning and substance to our quest for shared goals."
Underscoring the importance for adopting a step-by-step approach to the J and K issue given the "inherent difficulties" involved in finding practical solutions, Singh suggested that both sides should begin a dialogue with the people in their areas of control to improve the quality of governance.
This would give the people on both sides a greater chance of leading a life of dignity and self-respect. "I have often said that borders cannot be redrawn but we can work towards making them irrelevant; towards making them just lines on the map. People on both sides of LoC should be able to move more freely and trade with one another."
Destinies of people are interlinked
The Prime Minister said he envisaged a situation where the two parts of J and K could, with the active encouragement of the governments of India and Pakistan, work out cooperative, consultative mechanisms so as to maximise the gains of cooperation in solving problems of social and economic development of the region.
"The vision that guides us is that the destinies of our peoples are interlinked. That our two countries must therefore devise effective cooperative strategies to give concrete shape and meaning to this shared vision", he said.
Singh said, "India sincerely believes that a strong, stable, prosperous and moderate Pakistan is in the interest of India and entire South Asia. We are sincerely committed to the prosperity, unity, development and well being of Pakistan".