Sunday, October 19, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak must vacate PoK, says PM
Yoginder Gupta and Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Khora Kheri (Karnal/Panipat), October 18
Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee today lambasted Pakistan President, Gen Pervez Musharraf for raising the demand for the right to self-determination for the people of Kashmir at a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) held in Kuala Lumpur earlier this week. Without naming the General, Mr Vajpayee asked: “Is there democracy in Pakistan? I am an elected Prime Minister and will remain so till the people would desire. Who has elected you? They themselves are ruling at gunpoint and talk of self-determination for the people of Kashmir.

He was addressing a public rally here today, after laying the foundation stone of the Panipat refinery expansion project and the paraxylene/PTA project.

Mr Vajpayee described Jammu and Kashmir as “our Mukat-Mani (Jewel of India’s crown)”, to keep which “we have made and are still making numerous sacrifices”. He also mentioned yesterdays militant attack on the residence of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. He said India did not grab Jammu and Kashmir with force. Its people chose to join with India of their own will. Pakistan was illegally occupying one-third of the state.

Reiterating that Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) was part of Indian territory, he gave an assurance to the country that whenever any talks would take place with Pakistan, the issue of vacation of PoK would be discussed definitely. He said in Kargil our forces fought for every inch.

Despondency was writ large in Mr Vajpayee’s speech when he said despite his extending the hand of peace thrice, Pakistan did not respond favourably. “I told them to encourage trade between the two countries. But Pakistan is not interested to discuss any issue other than Jammu and Kashmir. Perhaps they do not like our goods, which would have cost them much less than those they are importing now from the other countries.”

He accused western countries of having double standards on the fight against terrorism. “Criminals flee to other countries after creating mayhems here. When we ask for their extradition, laws come in the way.”

He said India had been fighting terrorism for the past 20 years. “We ask these countries why are they not cooperating with us and sever ties with those who are promoting terrorism,” he said in an obvious reference to the USA and Pakistan, but did not name any country. However, he added that now the situation was changing. “Jo Hum Se Baat Bhi Nahin Karte The, Ab Hum Se Premalaap Karte Hain.” In this context he referred to the sanctions imposed against India after it went nuclear.

However, he expressed satisfaction that the World opinion was now changing. Now India was not being asked repeatedly when it would talk to Pakistan. The world appreciated when India told them that Pakistan should vacate PoK, for which it was not willing.

Mr Vajpayee was optimistic about the country’s future. he criticised those who predicted that India was going downslide. He said India was going uphill on the path to development. Referring to China’s manned space mission, he favoured a similar endeavour by India. He said many persons were not convinced about the usefulness of sending human beings in space. But, he said, the country’s development was closely linked with breakthroughs in the field of science and technology. He did not forget to remember the daughter of Karnal, Kalpana Chawla, in this context. He described her as “an inspiration for the youth”.

Championing advancement in technological field, Mr Vajpayee had a word of caution too for the advocates of automation. He said the problem with the modern-day technology was that while it increased production and quality of the goods produced, it also caused unemployment and retrenchment. To prevent this, he said we were changing the country’s industrial and education policies to make these job-oriented.

Mr Vajpayee said Haryana could show the way in promoting agriculture and agro-based industries so that reliance on white collar jobs could be minimised.

Urging all parties to work for the development of the country, Mr Vajpayee said the country’s interests overrode those of a political party.

On the achievements of his government, Mr Vajpayee said despite severe drought in many parts of the country last year and difficulties in distributing foodgrains, no person died of starvation. The country exported foodgrains worth Rs 6,600 crore. Farmers should now diversify into floriculture and horticulture and should grow more pulses and oilseeds.

Expressing concern over the huge annual crude oil import bill of Rs 80,000 crore, Mr Vajpayee said whenever there was tension in any part of the world, threats were held out to us to stop oil supplies. Of course, he added that India did not feel threatened. He said by promoting ethanol, the country could save on oil bill and the prices of petroleum products could be reduced. He urged Haryana Chief Minister, Om Prakash Chautala, to encourage use of ethanol in the state.

Mr Vajpayee said he spent 40 years in opposition but did not leave the party. He also recalled his association with Panipat, where, once he was arrested for participating in the Maha Punjab agitation. He also remembered “Malai Ki Pudi” of the town of weavers.

Mr Chautala said with the expansion of the Panipat refinery, Panipat, know as the “town of handlooms”, would have to be renamed as “Tel Nagri”. He urged the Prime Minister to sanction the construction of an elevated highway on the GT Road passing through Panipat town and an express highway bypassing Delhi through Haryana territory.

Earlier, when Petroleum Minister, Ram Naik, left his seat, adjacent to that of Mr Vajpayee, to address the meeting, Mr Chautala shifted to his chair and conferred with the Prime Minister for 10 minutes. From the movements of his hand it appeared that Mr Chautala was explaining something to Mr Vajpayee, who was a keen listener.

Mr Naik said the prices of cooking gas and kerosene would not be raised in near future.

Union Minister of State for Home, I.D. Swami, compared Mr Vajpayee with Sher Shah Suri for starting a road project to link the four metropolitan cities of the country. Among others who spoke were the Union Minister of State for Petroleum, Mrs Sumitra Mahajan; and the Chairman of the Indian Oil Corporation, Mr M.S. Ramachandran. Governor of Haryana, Babu Parmanand, was also present on the dais.


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