M A I N   N E W S

Vajpayee, Musharraf get award for peace
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 25
A US-based non-governmental organisation has jointly honoured Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf with the International Diplomacy Award in recognition of their peace-making efforts.

The Washington-based Search for Common Ground (SCG), which a US office press note here today described as the world’s largest NGO dedicated to conflict resolution, hailed the two leaders “for their courageous commitment to re-launching a peace process between their two countries”.

The award ceremony was held at the Austrian Embassy in the US capital on March 18. Mr Ashok Sajjanhar, Minister of Political Affairs at the Embassy of India, accepted the award on behalf of Prime Minister Vajpayee, stressing the Indian leader’s commitment to “achieving a durable and lasting peace in the subcontinent.”

He said peace and friendship with Pakistan had been an abiding vision for the Prime Minister “not only for the sake of the people of India and Pakistan, but for the solitary impact it will have on the fortunes of the entire region and indeed the world.”

Mr Sajjanhar pointed out that thanks to the confidence-building measures resulting from the beginning of the political dialogue in the past few months, rail and air links had resumed between the two countries, cultural links had been re-established, and business communities were in the process of examining mutually beneficial trade and commercial relations.

He said: “Recent developments have also demonstrated one simple truth. The chances of resolving the most contentious issues are higher when we tackle them in a warm, friendly atmosphere. The dialogue can be taken forward and sustained only in an atmosphere free of violence, hostility and terrorism.”

The award was presented by former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs George Moose. Mr Moose recognised “the political risks taken and the moral courage that has been demonstrated by both the leaders in their drive towards regional peace.” “The rest of world”, Mr Moose said, “will be watching with hopeful anticipation as the outcome of this initiative unfolds.”

On behalf of Gen Musharraf, the award was accepted by Mr Mohammed Sadiq, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Pakistan, Washington. He said the organisation’s decision to bestow the award “indicates the rightful optimism the world has about the two leaders.”

Mr Sadiq harped on Kashmir as well and said: “The resolution of the Kashmir dispute and the establishment of peace between India and Pakistan would initiate an era of unprecedented prosperity in South Asia”.

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