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Tuesday, December 8, 1998
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No bargaining on Kashmir: PM
Tribune News Service and PTI

JAMMU, Dec 7 — The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, has announced that not an inch of Jammu and Kashmir state will be bartered away to Pakistan. He has called for vigilance against foiling Pak designs of kicking up violence in the state by pushing in foreign mercenaries.

Addressing a public meeting at Hiranagar in Kathua district today the Prime Minister said: "We are ready for talks with Pakistan but Kashmir is not negotiable." He said what had to be discussed was the future of the occupied Kashmir and said this part too belonged to India. He wanted to know how and with whose permission Pakistan "gifted" a portion of the occupied Kashmir territory to China. The state was not a "jagir" of any individual and as such Pakistan had no legal right to transfer part of the state's territory to China, he added.

Mr Vajpayee renewed India's commitment on the third party mediation on Kashmir. "We have already conveyed to Pakistan that we are not ready for any third party mediation," he said adding that even the USA and other countries had supported "our stand" and no longer press for any international mediation.

The Prime Minister referred to his today's visit to Tangdhar area in west Kashmir and said the border belt continued to be rocked by Pak firing. "I was told not to visit the area. I did not agree because I found people braving these bullets, I saw our security forces facing odds and it egged me to visit the area," he said amid cheers.

Mr Vajpayee said in the Tangdhar area school buildings, houses and hospitals had been damaged by Pak firing in recent months. This, he added, clearly indicated that Pakistan wanted the destruction in Kashmir. He said during his two-day visit to Kashmir he found the situation had improved and people were for peace and had grown wary of violence. Educated youth wanted jobs and development of the state but Pakistan tried to create problems with the help of foreign mercenaries. He said despite improvement in the situation complete vigil was required against Pak elements and it was imperative to foil Pak designs of destabilising peace in the state.

Mr Vajpayee referred to the sufferings of Muslims in the Kargil and Tangdhar areas and said that these Muslims in the entire state wanted to remain with India but it was Pak disinformation campaign that had misled the world opinion in the past.

Mr Vajpayee referred to the bandh call given by the separatists during his visit to Kashmir and said a large number of Muslims in Kargil and Tangdhar and Srinagar had come out to be present in the public rallies.

He assured the people of the Hiranagar border area that necessary security arrangements would be made to provide security to people living in the border villages. In this connection a team of Union Home Ministry would formulate a broadbased plan for providing security to the border villagers.

Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah and the BJP MP Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, also addressed the meeting and explained to the Prime Minister problems being faced by the people in the border area as a result of heavy Pak firing.

After Hiranagar public rally Mr Vajpayee returned to New Delhi.

Earlier addressing a public meeting at Tangdhar the Prime Minister asserted that the nation was fully prepared to face any eventuality saying "nefarious designs" of Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir would never be allowed to succeed.

Mr Vajpayee said: "We will thwart all such attempts by our adversaries till the last breath. We will guard our borders at all costs. We will not allow even an inch of our land to go and keep our flag flying high."

Accusing Pakistan of sending in militants to target innocent people, their houses, schools and hospitals in the state, the Prime Minister told the gathering "if you are determined to fight them, no one will be able to take away your territory."

"The large participation of the people at this rally clearly shows that they are not listening to the militants any longer," he said assuring the locals that steps would be taken to resolve their problems soon.

He said the Scheduled Tribe status would be granted to people living in Ladakh, Kupwara and Kargil and said the houses, schools and hospitals damaged by Pak shelling in the region would be rebuilt or repaired soon.

Later, Mr Vajpayee told reporters that the government was taking all steps to mitigate the problems faced by the troops and people in this region.

"Insurgency has failed and the people have realised this. Normalcy is fast returning to Jammu and Kashmir and a number of steps have been taken in this direction," he said.

"We want to live in peace but our neighbours do not want that," he said, adding "we want friendship with Pakistan and all our neighbours. But this does not mean that will sit quietly if somebody tries to set our house on fire."

The Prime Minister said the government would seriously consider the proposal for the construction of the "sadhana tunnel" in Kupwara which would solve the transport problem of the people in winters when roads get blocked due to heavy snowfall.

Mr Vajpayee asked Pakistan to make serious efforts to resolve all outstanding issues with India, including the Kashmir issue, and desist from fomenting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.back

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