Sunday, April 20, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Ball in Pakistan’s court, says PM

Srinagar, April 19
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today said it was entirely up to Pakistan to respond positively to the hand of friendship extended by him and see that cross-border terrorism and infiltration stopped for a meaningful dialogue to resume.

“There should be a new beginning. It depends on Pakistan. What reaction and what type of response Pakistan gives to end cross-border infiltration and terrorism. That is when a dialogue can take place.

“We are willing to discuss all issues including Jammu and Kashmir. But the route of cross-border terrorism cannot go on. There has been no benefit from it and there cannot any benefit in future. I hope there be an appropriate response from across the border,” Mr Vajpayee told a press conference before leaving for Delhi at the end of a two-day visit to the valley.

Referring to the absence of any remarks on the Nadimarg massacre of Kashmiri Pandits in his speeches in the two days, Mr Vajpayee said it was not because he did not remember it but “because I want a new beginning to be made”.

He said similarly he had referred to the 1999 Kargil conflict but did not go into details of who were behind it though a Prime Minister of Pakistan had to go on the issue.

The Prime Minister said there was a change in the situation in J and K and the international situation had also changed. “What happened in Iraq is a challenge to us but I do not want to go beyond that”.

He said “Kashmir is at a turning point after successful Assembly election in which people defied threats and guns.

“There is a need for a new beginning. That is why I extended my hand of friendship to Pakistan and Pakistan has also to do something,” he said, adding his hand of friendship offer was a “big thing”.

Recounting his peace initiatives through the Lahore bus journey and Agra Summit, Mr Vajpayee, however, said that no proper dialogue with Pakistan could take place till cross- border terrorism stopped.

“Infiltration is going on. Many armed militants are waiting across the border to cross over to this side. No meaningful dialogue could be held as long as Pakistan did not stop these,” he said.

Referring to his yesterday’s statement, Mr Vajpayee said India wanted friendly relations with Pakistan but Islamabad should also accept some responsibility if relations between the two countries were to improve.

“As far as India is concerned, we want to move on the path of friendship. Pakistan has welcomed my yesterday’s statement but what Pakistan wants to do the future will tell,” the Prime Minister said.

He said it was important the India and Pakistan should resolve their differences through dialogue. “It may take time. The Jammu and Kashmir issue has been hanging fire for the past 50 years. That is why there is no other way to resolve difference but through dialogue.” However, he made it clear that dialogue could not be a one-sided affair.

Referring to his drive back to Srinagar airport from the city, Mr Vajpayee said he longed for the day when he would be able to walk through the streets of Srinagar without any security. “Such a day should come. We will try for that,” Mr Vajpayee said.

To a question whether the present initiative of holding talks with the other groups included Hurriyat, the Prime Minister said “the offer is for everyone and all who want to come for dialogue are welcome”.

Stating that Pakistan should understand that the cross-border infiltration should end, Mr Vajpayee said the new element in this offer was that he was extending the hand of friendship even after Kargil and Lahore. “The snow is melting and it should melt on all issues”, he said.

He also defended the exclusion of any reference to Nadimarg incident saying that he did not wish to whip up any tension as recollecting that incident might spur a fresh wave of anger.

On the possibility of third party mediation on Kashmir, Mr Vajpayee said it would worsen the matter. “Let this (Kashmir) be between India and Pakistan only. Our experience is that if a third party gets involved the matter gets worse.”

On the healing touch policy of the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Vajpayee said the Chief Minister had made it clear and “we also feel that there is a need for a healing touch”.

“But it would not be for those who want to deepen the wounds. There is no healing touch for terrorists. If they want to talk, the doors are open for them,” Mr Vajpayee said adding that there could be no policy other than healing touch.

Asked about the chances of success of the Centre’s interlocutor N.N. Vohra’s mission in the backdrop of failure suffered by K.C. Pant and Ram Jethmalani, the Prime Minister said the situation has changed.

“...Did anyone think of holding election in Jammu and Kashmir and that it would be free and fair... Did anyone think that the new government would be talking about healing touch,” he said.

Mr Vajpayee said the situation had changed internationally too. I do not want to go into details at this time. The war in Iraq had lessons for all countries, especially developing nations.

“How long will India and Pakistan continue like this? We have made yet another attempt (at peace). I have been told that I am dreaming... I do dream and believe that they will come true,” he added.

“I am not a dream-merchant. I am firmly rooted to the ground realities,” he said. Asked as to when the talks with Pakistan could begin, the Prime Minister said India was in favour of an early dialogue but it entirely depended on Islamabad’s “positive response.”

“If Pakistan announces today that it has stopped cross-border terrorism, ended infiltration and wound up terrorist training camps, I will send a senior official of the External Affairs Ministry to Pakistan tomorrow to decide the agenda.”

India is prepared to discuss all issues including Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan, he said. However, Mr Vajpayee said the resolution of the problem will take some time. “The more than 50-year-old problem can not be solved overnight. It will take time”, he asserted. PTI

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