Sunday, May 11, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Visiting Pak MPs invite Indians

New Delhi, May 10
Visiting parliamentarians and eminent citizens from Pakistan have invited their Indian counterparts on a goodwill tour, saying that people of both countries must knock down acrimony of the past and work towards a great future.

The 12-member delegation led by Mr Ishaq Khan Khakwani, which is here on a week-long goodwill visit, began its third day here today with a series of meetings with Indian leaders. The tour stems from an agreement among nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which allowed them free travel despite diplomatic bottlenecks with India.

Over a dinner meet last night hosted by Lok Janashakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan, the visitors said they would impress upon the Pakistani leadership to earnestly work towards a lasting solution to lingering problems plaguing the neighbouring nations.

Significantly, leaders of both countries said that economic cooperation and cultural contacts among people must override all problems. It is ironic that even after half a century after both countries became independent, nearly half of their people continue to languish in poverty.

Mr Khakwani, a member of the Pakistan National Assembly, said: “Free trade with India and possibly Bangladesh as well is imperative to forge a mass market of over 1.5 billion persons which will attract sizeable investments. When benefits of economic cooperation start percolating down to masses, they will eventually forget the past.

While political consensus still eludes Indian leaders on peace talks with Islamabad, several of them said thorny bilateral issues — like the Kashmir imbroglio — should not come in the way of the people.

The massive defence expenditure which both countries spend each year could be spent on eliminating poverty, spreading education and improving health care, said Mr Paswan. Mr Raghvansh Prasad Yadav of the RJD added: “If the two Germanys can unite for mutual benefit, why not India and Pakistan? The whole Europe is now coming together to evolve a borderless market with single currency and no visa restrictions.”

Among Indian leaders present last night were Mr Balram Jhakar, Mr Ranjana Kumari, Mrs Arun Kumar, Mr K.P. Singh Deo, Mr Romesh Bhandari, Mr Shivraj Patil, Admiral Ramdoss and Mr Devendra Prasad Yadav. UNI

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