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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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SAFMA Secy-Gen apologises for Partition carnage
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
The Secretary-General of the South Asian Free Media Association, Mr Imtiaz Alam, today gave a new meaning to the fast-changing India-Pakistan relationship. He chose to say: “ We are sorry for the carnage during Partition.”

“I had to take this burden of history off my back”, he went on to add amidst thunderous applause.

He was speaking at a special session, “Punjab-Punjab consultation: exploring complementarities” organised by SAFMA and the Chandigarh Press Club here. Mr Alam, who is based in Lahore, said the border of the countries should present opportunities in trade and not represent conflict. People in the two nations have had very deep emotional connections for the past several centuries and a 60-year-old history of Partition should not be allowed to obliterate this bond.

“We have common links and should have a common agenda and the links that date back to Harrapan times should be restored.” Mr Alam made sure he spoke up for the states adjoining Punjab but made sure he was politically correct. He said “trade with Pakistan will not only help Punjab.

It will help Haryana and Himachal Pradesh also”. There was no mention of Jammu and Kashmir.

He said that group visas for tourists between the two countries would be a reality soon. He was in favour of more frequent bus services between the two countries.

Participating in the session were leading economists from both countries. Mr Shahid Kardar from Pakistan was candid enough to admit that the lower literacy rates in Pakistani Punjab and the high number of people living below the poverty line were a cause of worry.

He said Pakistan could use Indian seeds, which were very good, while India looked to modify labour laws as was done in Pakistan. He pointed out that employment opportunities were shrinking in Indian Punjab while in Pakistani Punjab real earnings had declined. He dismissed fears of Pakistani industry that it would be affected in the case of more free trade with India.

Mr G.K. Chadda, Member, Economic Advisory Group to the Indian Prime Minister, said cooperation between the two Punjabs had to be seen within the framework of the larger national picture while Pakistan could pick up tips to be a first-rate knowledge economy from India and also a manufacturing economy. “ Intellectuals matter in a country”, he said, adding that people should not keep carrying the burden of history and look at things optimistically.

The Director of the Institute of Development Communication, Dr Pramod Kumar reminded the audience that cultural ties would help boost economic ties also. Already, the two countries had a “trust deficit” that needed to be overcome.

The president of the Press Club, Mr Jagtar Singh Sidhu, asked SAFMA to intervene and allow the sale of newspapers in each others’ territory.

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CM agrees to set up peace park 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today announced the setting up of a peace park (friendship park) in the Wagah-Attari area on both sides of the border.

He said he would take up the matter with the Government of India and also suggested to a visiting delegation from Pakistan to impress upon Mr Pervaiz Elahi, Chief Minister of Pakistani Punjab, to discuss this matter with the Pakistan Prime Minister.

The Chief Minister was delivering his presidential address at a session, “Punjab-Punjab consultation: exploring complementarities,” jointly organised by the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) and the Chandigarh Press Club here today.

Earlier, the Pakistani chapter of SAFMA mooted the idea of setting up a “peace park” between India and Pakistan on the Wagah-Attari international border in “no man’s land” to facilitate more people-to-people contact and cultural and business exchanges.

“We are suggesting a list of proposals for both governments to consider. One among these is creating a 8 km-long and 1 km-wide peace park in no man’s land area on the border. There should be no restriction on people from either side wanting to visit this park,” said Mr Imtiaz Alam, Secretary-General of SAFMA, who is leading a 30-member delegation from Pakistan.

He said this would eventually become a place where people from both sides could visit and celebrate their festivals, exchange delegations or just come to relax and share experiences.

Capt Amarinder Singh also gave an assurance that he would take up the issue of opening a visa centre in Amritsar with the Government of India to facilitate people in crossing the border, as the present procedure was quite cumbersome and inconvenient.

He said: “India and Pakistan are the two largest economies in the South Asian region and provide tremendous potential for bilateral trade. Indo-Pak relations have several positive features by virtue of shared cultural values, historical and philosophical links, people-to-people contacts and long-standing cooperation in the economic, commercial and agricultural areas.”

The Chief Minister hoped that with the South Asian Free Trade Agreement in vogue the potential of Indo-Pak trade had increased manifold, thereby opening new vistas of business and tourism opportunities. “Forging a strong economic relationship between India and Pakistan has become imperative in the emerging global economy and the new international economic order”.

Capt Amarinder Singh mentioned that there was unofficial indirect trade of $ 2 billion every year between India and Pakistan. If this was regularised, it had a potential to increase four times. He said for instance, Pakistan imported 25 to 30 lakh tonnes of foodgrains every year. India was surplus in foodgrains which could be supplied at lower prices. “We in India import cotton and Pakistan exports cotton. India can buy cotton”, he suggested.

The Vice-President of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sohail Lashari underscored the need for sincerely implementing the decisions taken at such forums in letter and in spirit to instil the feeling of confidence and security amongst the captains of industry to boost economic and trade activity in the subcontinent.

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