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India, Pak should make border irrelevant: PM
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Paris, September 11
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said that with no question of redrawing borders, India and Pakistan should strive towards making the “border irrelevant” by giving a further impetus to people-to-people contacts and developmental efforts.

He maintained that the pre-requisite for taking the Indo-Pak peace process forward and for having a ceasefire in the violence in the Kashmir valley was for Islamabad to effectively control infiltration, cease violence and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.

At the same time, he told mediapersons aboard “Tanjore”, Air-India One, while flying to the French capital that all items listed on the agenda of the Indo-Pak composite dialogue were contained in the joint statement issued during the visit of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to India in April. He acknowledged that some progress had been made, like the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service had become a reality.

Stressing that he was looking forward to his dinner meeting with General Musharraf on the sidelines of the 60th UNGA meeting in New York later this week, Dr Manmohan Singh explained: “We are committed to reviewing the progress in every sphere of the bilateral agenda. We will see what further can be done.”

He stressed “he had not changed his mind” that General Musharraf “is man with whom you can trust and do business with”.

On the specific issue of Sarabjit Singh who is on death row and understood to have confessed to his involvement in bombings in Pakistan, the Prime Minister noted that there had been positive talks with Pakistan on this and other issues.

He did not lend much credence to concerns expressed by certain US Congressmen or in other quarters in that country about Iran going ahead with its nuclear programme. The Prime Minister insisted that “our relationship is with the US administration. President George Bush and I agreed on a joint statement. One should not be waylaid by the individual statements of Congressmen. People are free to say what they like as it is a free country.”

On US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wanting India, Russia and China issuing a strong statement urging Iran to desist from its nuclear programme, Dr Manmohan Singh explained that “this is a matter to be discussed at the Board of Governors’ meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on September 19.”

When it was posed to him if his government was considering having a road link to Afghanistan via Pakistan, the Prime Minister said, “That can also be considered.”

Asked for his comments about Chairman of APHC Mirwaiz Umer Farooq meeting General Musharraf in New York, the Prime Minister noted, “We have agreed for the Hurriyat Conference to let us know the precise points that it wants to discuss. I will be meeting them again after which we will decide at what level the discussions will continue.” He refused to discuss the Hurriyat leader’s meeting with the Pakistan President on the ground that they were Indians and he did not find it necessary to discuss their meetings with foreign dignitaries.

About the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, Dr Manmohan Singh drew pointed attention to India’s tremendous energy needs as the country could not depend entirely on hydrocarbons. There was an imperative need to look at alternative sources.

He specifically referred to his visit to the United Nations, marking the 60th anniversary of its founding, and said he would take up with French President Jacques Chirac tomorrow the reforms to the world body as well as the expansion of the United Nations Security Council. France was among the first countries to support India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the UNSC.


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