Thursday, April 24, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

PM open to talks on Kashmir issue
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 23
India today came close to recognising ‘Kashmir’ to be the core issue between India and Pakistan as Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said the talks between the two countries could take place on all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.

Making a statement on his two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir in the Lok Sabha today, Mr Vajpayee said; "Stopping cross-border infiltration and destruction of terrorist infrastructure can open the doors of talks.... on all issues, including that of Jammu and Kashmir".

In this context, he also sought to remind what he said in Kashmir that "a new beginning can take place between India and Pakistan... we have extended our hand of friendship. Let us see how Pakistan responds to this".

The Prime Minister’s statement assumes great significance as New Delhi has been maintaining that India and Pakistan should ease tension by forging cooperation in the economic sphere and finding a solution to the Kashmir issue through bilateral talks.

It may be recalled that during the Agra summit, Pakistan had been insisting on treating Kashmir as the core issue and talks failed as India did not agree on the “adamant stand” of Islamabad.

“Both countries should resolve that we need to live together in peace”, Mr Vajpayee said.

“I assured the people of Jammu and Kashmir that we wish to resolve all issues— both domestic and external —through talks. I stressed that the gun can solve no problem, brotherhood can. Issues can be resolved if we move forward guided by the three principles of ‘insaaniyat’ jamhooriyat’ and Kashmiriyat”, he said.

The Prime Minister identified unemployment as the main problem confronting the youth in the state and the Centre would constitute a special task force to facilitate the creation of one lakh employment and self-employment opportunities in the state.

The task force would have representatives from the Centre, state government, industry, commerce, banking and financial institutions. It would present its report by June 30 and implementation would commence from August 15.

Elaborating on his visit to Jammu and Kashmir, he said in the public rally he congratulated the people of Kashmir on participating in the Assembly elections in large numbers.

He assured the people that “we have come here to share your pain and suffering. Whatever complaints you have, try to address them collectively. Knock on the doors of Delhi. Delhi will never close its doors to you. The doors of our heart will also remain open for you”.

He said during the visit he laid the foundation stone for the modernisation of Srinagar Airport that would double its capacity so that international air services could start from there.

He also launched work on a four-lane highway from Srinagar to Kanyakumari under the National Highway Development Project.

His last programme was about work on the construction of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramula railway line. “It is our resolve to ensure that train services start in the valley before August 15, 2007,” he said.


Pervez welcomes offer

Islamabad, April 23
Pervez Musharraf In his first direct comments on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s fresh offer of talks to Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf has said he is glad to see “positive indications” from India which could be pursued to “greater interacting process.”

“We are glad to see positive indications coming lately,” Musharraf said at a banquet last night for visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai while referring to Vajpayee’s offer of friendship, according to state-run APP news agency.

Expressing the hope that these indications “can be pursued to greater interacting process,” Musharraf said, Pakistan was prepared to engage in a comprehensive dialogue with India on Kashmir and other outstanding disputes.

Observing that Kashmir has been at the “heart of Pakistan-India differences since Independence,” he said “Pakistan wishes to resolve all its issues with India peacefully.”

He also said that Kashmir had been the main impediment to the development of normal relations between the two countries. PTI 

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