M A I N   N E W S

Govt ready for more autonomy for J&K
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 30
Ruling out further division of the country on religious or any other grounds, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh observed that India and Pakistan must move forward towards finding constructive solutions to all outstanding issues.

He was categoric that he had no mandate to negotiate to “redraw the boundaries” and that the UPA government is willing to consider greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir.

Within these limitations, India and Pakistan must work together to create an environment to take the peace process forward. “It required a new pattern of working and there is great scope for moving forward.” At the same time he urged Pakistan to ensure dismantling of the terrorist training camps on its soil to facilitate peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues between the two countries.

In his first interface with foreign journalists based here today, Dr Manmohan Singh said it would be unrealistic to fix any time frame for resolving the protracted Kashmir problem which has dragged on for 57 years. At the same he refused to minimise the difficulties that lay ahead for India and Pakistan which are fraught with roadblocks.

“I do believe that we have to move forward. We have today an atmosphere where we can start discussing basic problems,” he observed fielding questions about India’s ties with the US, China and neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Dr Manmohan Singh emphasised that the first and foremost condition that he conveyed to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was that terrorist elements (in his country) “must be (brought) fully under control.”

He warned that if India faced another major attack like the one on Parliament or the RSS headquarters... that could upset the whole (dialogue) process. He stressed that J and K had a unique place in the country’s polity. The state has a Constitution of its own. He pointed out that elections had been held in J and K which had been recognised by the most competent international observes.

“If need be we can look at greater autonomy for J and K. Pakistan can also take similar steps. It will bring about a greater degree of complementarity.”

On India’s bid for a permanent seat in an expanded United Nations Security Council, Dr Manmohan Singh said there can no discrimination between the old and the new members. This had specific reference to the veto power which United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan had said is not agreeable to the permanent five.

He, however, acknowledged that this matter was not entirely in India’s hands and “we will see as we go along ...” He reiterated that the poor countries of the world had a greater stake in the successful functioning of the UN and other multilateral agencies which was vital for development and eradication of poverty. The G-4 (India, Japan, Germany and Brazil) had decided to join hands and convince the members of the UN that the “time has come to make the UNSC a more representative body.”

On Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister said India had a very vital stake in the unity and integrity of that country and hoped that the ethnic problem in the island state will be resolved peacefully.

Dr Manmohan Singh confirmed that he will attend the 13th Saarc summit to be held in Dhaka in November.


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