M A I N   N E W S

PM ready to meet Hurriyat leaders
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 13
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today described China’s support to India’s claim for permanent membership of the UN Security Council as “a step forward”.

During a brief interaction with newsmen at Haryana Raj Bhawan here this evening, Dr Manmohan Singh said before Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s visit to India, it was being said from Chinese soil that India’s membership of the Security Council “is a matter of consensus”. His statement on Indian soil that China supported a bigger role for India in international affairs, including the United Nations, was a step forward.

Answering a question, Dr Manmohan Singh said if countries like China, India and Brazil grow at the speed which their potential demanded, the world would change in the next two decades or so.

The Prime Minister said he was ready to meet leaders of the Hurriyat Conference of Jammu and Kashmir even though there was an elected government in the state. “This government has come to power after elections, which have been internationally recognised as free and fair. But I also recognise that there are people outside the political system, and the Hurriyat is one of them.”

“I am available to the Hurriyat as well as the others. The Hurriyat leaders can meet me or any of my colleagues as and when they want,” the Prime Minister said in reply to a question on reports that the Hurriyat leaders had expressed their desire to meet him.

Ruling out any reunion of India and Pakistan, Dr Manmohan Singh said the partition of the country was a settled fact of history “which cannot be undone and should not be undone.”

He was responding to a question about the possibility of a reunion of India and Pakistan like the unification of Vietnam and Germany.

Dr Manmohan Singh’s statement in this regard should pacify those in Pakistan who have been expressing fears that India had not accepted the birth of Pakistan and wanted to undo partition. It assumes greater significance in view of the forthcoming visit of the Pakistan President, Gen Musharraf, to India.

The Prime Minister, however, added that since all the countries of the Indian subcontinent had common history, heritage and culture, it was incumbent upon us to improve out relations with all our neighbours, be it Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal or Sri Lanka. “I and my government is committed to do that,” he added.

The common enemies of the countries of the sub-continent were ignorance, poverty and illiteracy, against which there should be concerted efforts.

“South Asia is a sub-continent with great potential. Somehow that potential has not been fully realised. Policy makers in the sub-continent should take note of the grim poverty, illiteracy and disease and make a concerted effort to deal with these scourges,” Dr Manmohan Singh added.

Answering another question, he said during yesterday’s investiture ceremony it was brought to his notice by the armed forces that after the introduction of VAT, the prices in CSD had gone up. He said he would look into it.

He said he had already expressed his “disappointment” over the US decision to give F-16 planes to Pakistan and had nothing more to add. When asked about the government’s fresh affidavit in the Kargil purchases case, he said he did not share the perception of “clean or no clean chit” to the former Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes. “The Defence Minister has already explained and the government has filed supplementary affidavit in the case.”


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