Borders cannot be changed, but made less significant: PM

October 10th, 2008 - 11:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghSrinagar, Oct 10 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here Friday there was no question of changing the borders with Pakistan while efforts would be made to make these less significant and irrelevant.Addressing a media conference at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) here, Manmohan Singh said: “Good relations with Pakistan are an important part of our policy. Both countries, through mutual understanding, should improve these relations.”

“We want to improve our relations with Pakistan. All issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, should be resolved through negotiations. But, the borders cannot be changed. Unnecessary restrictions can be reduced. The significance of borders can be reduced and these can be made irrelevant,” he added.

The prime minister said he had invited Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to this country for building an era of confidence between India and Pakistan.

“I said on April 7, 2005, when I flagged off the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus from here that this was a small step on the road to peace which would create an atmosphere for solving all the problems between the two neighbours,” he said.

Commenting on the cross-Line of Control (LOC) trade between two parts of the divided Kashmir from Oct 21, the prime minister said: “Trade through the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakote routes is a big step. History will determine the significance of this step.”

“After many years of blaming each other and violence, now changing winds of confidence are sweeping the region. There is no denying the fact that relations between India and Pakistan have improved during the recent years”.

“I want Jammu and Kashmir to become a great part of (the) peace and confidence (building process) between India and Pakistan. We must leave behind our past and think of a bright future together,” Manmohan Singh said.

He said he had asked Zardari to resume the composite dialogue process between the two countries.

Commenting the forthcoming state assembly elections, the prime minister said: “It is my hope that in a democracy, elections are the way to test popularity and everyone should participate in them. The government will ensure free and fair polls. The ballot boxes should be the arbitrators of the people’s destiny.”

Commenting on the separatists’ demand for a trilateral dialogue between India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir, the prime minister noted: “Let me say that India and Pakistan are committed to peace. We are not opposed to a dialogue with any section of Kashmiri public opinion.”

“Separatist groups are welcome to meet the government. I have had two meetings with the separatist leaders and I have also met some of them individually. Before we jump to the idea of a trilateral dialogue, let us begin the bilateral dialogue and see its results,” the prime minister maintained.

Manmohan Singh said the separatist leaders had assured him they would revert to him with specific demands but they haven’t done that so far.

“Demands made by the separatists through the press are not acceptable,” he said.

Asked whether the Indian government would resume telephonic links between Kashmir and Pakistan since trade between the two parts was now being started, Manmohan Singh said: “These are not immutable laws of nature. Conditions can be created to remove such restrictions.”

Speaking about his meetings Friday with the mainstream political parties here, Manmohan Singh said: “It is my request to all the political parties to end the regional tensions between Jammu and Kashmir since these tensions are of a communal nature and must be ended. The state has its own tradition of communal harmony, which must be re-established.”

The prime minister regretted the loss of life during the recent agitations in the valley and in the Jammu region over the Amarnath land row.

“Whenever there is loss of life, it is a matter of great sorrow and regret. I grieve for all those who lost their near and dear ones in the unfortunate developments that occurred in the state.”

Asked whether the centre was thinking of banning organisations like the Bajrang Dal and the RSS, the prime minister said: “It is a subject matter of a national debate.”

He strongly asserted that terrorism posed a serious threat to the country, and added: “Terrorism should be tackled, but it should not be used to profile communities as terrorists.”

Speaking about the global financial meltdown and its impact on India, he said: “I am sure the growth rate this year will be 7 to 7.5 percent. Our banks are adequately capitalized and steps will be taken to protect the economy.”

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