Wednesday, March 5, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

‘No repetition of J&K mistakes’
PM promises assistance to state
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 4
Advising Pakistan to refrain from raising bilateral issues, including Kashmir, at the multilateral fora, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today pledged full support to the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and said past mistakes in the state would not be repeated.

Replying to the motion of thanks on the President’s Address in the Rajya Sabha, the Prime Minister said Pakistan’s attempts to raise bilateral issues at the multilateral fora only further vitiated the atmosphere between India and Pakistan.

Talking about his recent visit to Kuala Lumpur for the NAM summit, Mr Vajpayee said the relevance of NAM was not lost and a resolve was made by all member nations to make it more active.

He added that Pakistan got no support for its views from any other country. It was isolated to the point of even being denied a right to reply. “We can only hope that Pakistan will draw the right conclusions from this experience and understand the futility of such efforts”. The Prime Minister said Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had made some unwarranted remarks about Jammu and Kashmir. This was contrary to the long-standing NAM spirit.

On Iraq, he said, there was unity regarding continuation of multilateral efforts for finding a peaceful solution to the crisis. There was also a clear exhortation to Iraq to fully comply with the UN resolutions, he said.

Talking of Jammu and Kashmir, the Prime Minister said a new chapter had been opened in the state. “A new chapter has been opened. I can assure you that whatever mistakes were committed in the past will not be repeated.”

Undeterred by militants’ bullets, people exercised their franchise in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly poll giving a befitting reply to “our neighbour”, Mr Vajpayee said.

Referring to members’ demand that the state government needed more assistance, the Prime Minister said whatever assistance was promised would be provided to the state government. He said the Centre had recently appointed Mr N.N. Vohra, a former Home Secretary, as interlocutor to hold talks with all parties concerned on Kashmir.

Mr Vohra, the Prime Minister said, was an experienced officer and would hold discussions with all parties to find a solution to the problem.

Stating that doubts were expressed over holding free and fair poll in Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Vajpayee said people exercised their franchise despite several odds and this had changed the world opinion.

He said the government was keen on linking Srinagar with a rail line, a concept visualised by the late Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, which could not materialise.

“This is very important,” he said, adding that a resource crunch should not come in the way.

The Prime Minister said of the Rs 6,000 crore package announced by the Centre for the state, a major chunk of the allocation would be spent on linking the state by rail lines, including a train link up to Srinagar.

Turning his attention to economy, Mr Vajpayee admitted that the 8 per cent growth target which had been visualised would be difficult to achieve due to the drought which had hit several parts of the country. But he added that it was not impossible if the challenges were faced unitedly shunning political differences.

He mentioned the four connectivities which President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had referred to in his speech while talking of Vision 2020.

Elaborating on the President’s Address, Mr Vajpayee said the President highlighted the issue of connectivity in four areas — transport, knowledge, electronic and market.

“We are committed to achieve this,” he said, adding that the government was ready to bear the financial burden.

When the government embarked upon the highway project, several apprehensions were expressed about its viability, but now it was for everybody to see the achievements in this sector, he said, adding that the entire economic scenario had changed for the good in these areas.

The Rs 7,000 crore project taken up by the government to establish road connectivity in villages was progressing well and already connectivity had been established in 20,000 villages, he said.

There are still 1.6 lakh villages not having road connectivity in the country, as a result of which they have been neglected economically, he said, adding that the government was committed to provide connectivity to these villages. On electronic connectivity, Mr Vajpayee said concerted efforts by the government during the past three years had led to increase in tele-density by three times to bring about rural connectivity.

With the establishment of Internet connectivity in villages, the entire rural scenario was being transformed providing necessary market connectivity, he said, adding that this had improved the economy of the villages and some of the rural women now do business using mobile phones.

He said the Budget had seriously taken the President’s emphasis on establishing the four connectivities and Rs 60,000 crore had been apportioned for removing infrastructure bottlenecks in the country.

Mr Vajpayee did not agree with senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee’s views that savings as a proportion to the gross domestic product were going down.

He quoted statistics to say that gross domestic savings had increased to 24 per cent of the GDP in 2001-02 from 23.4 per cent in 2000-01.

“Our savings have increased and have not come down”, he said.

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