LOC in Kashmir can become symbol of peace, says Singh

LoC can become symbol of peace, says Singh
By Jawed Naqvi
Daily Times, July 16, 2007

NEW DELHI, July 15: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday announced his quest for a historic reconciliation with Pakistan for peace and cooperation in Kashmir, including a joint sharing of its water and land resources for the region’s benefit on both sides of the Line of Control.

The prime minister, who was on a day-long visit to Jammu, told college students there that the time was ripe for such a pact with Pakistan and between the culturally and politically diverse peoples of Jammu and Kashmir.

“There comes a time in the history of a people, when they are energised enough to make history,” he said. “For sixty years we have lived with tension and periods of violence, both internally and in our relations with Pakistan. You all know, better than anyone else, the tragic consequences of war, terrorism, conflict and displacement. It is time to make a genuine effort to build peace and create the conditions for a historic reconciliation of hearts and minds in our region.”

Younger people `without any bitter memories, and full of hope and energy, are the ones who can lead this process of change,’ he said.His dialogue with Pakistan seeks to end the bitter legacy of the last 60 years, and begin a new chapter in bilateral relations. The comments appeared to be timed to ease the difficulties for President Gen Pervez Musharraf with extremists.

“I hope and believe that Jammu and Kashmir can, one day, become a symbol of India-Pakistan cooperation rather than of conflict. As I have stated earlier, borders cannot be changed, but they can be made irrelevant. There can be no question of divisions or partitions, but the Line of Control can become a line of peace with a freer flow of ideas, goods, services and people.”

Touching on a crucial issue that impacts on ties with Pakistan, the prime minister said: “The natural resources of the state of Jammu and Kashmir could then be used for the benefit of all its people. They need no longer be points of contention or a source of conflict. We could, for example, use the land and water resources of the region jointly for the benefit of all the people living on both sides of the Line of Control.

“Similarly, there are vast opportunities to jointly work together for the mutual benefit of our people. It goes without saying that this can only happen once terrorism and violence end permanently.”

Dr Singh pitched for state elections due next year. “I have said this before and I say it again, real political power in a democracy comes from the ballot box, not the barrel of a gun. We are firm in our resolve to fight terrorism and to end the blackmail of terror in this peace-loving state.

“We are committed to winning the hearts and minds of all. We will never allow anyone to stop the heartbeat of a peace-loving people in whatever cause. We will also continue our dialogue with Pakistan, despite difficulties, in this spirit because I genuinely believe that there is no alternative but to work for building peace. I also know that the yearning for peace is most intensely felt here in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Dr Singh said Kashmir’s affairs were receiving his personal attention. He had chaired three round-table conferences at which almost the full spectrum of public and political opinion in the state has been represented.

“The roundtable process has emerged as an effective platform for addressing all the concerns of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. I am sorry that some groups have so far opted to stay away. I hope they will come to recognise the historic significance and the transparent sincerity of the roundtable process and will join it in future.”

Real empowerment of the state’s people was not about slogans. “Only when every man, woman and child from Ladakh to Lakhanpur and from Kargil to Kathua through Kashmir feels secure, in every sense of the word, can we truly say that people have been empowered,” the prime minister said.

“We would like the people of Jammu and Kashmir to be free from all fears about their future.”

APP adds: The Jammu University conferred on Mr Singh the Degree of Doctor of Letters.

The Indian leader said: “I believe it is possible to pursue the development of a United State of Jammu and Kashmir even while respecting and addressing the legitimate aspirations of the people of each of the three regions -- Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh.”

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