The PM on Pakistan, J&K

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India and Pakistan, under a new framework for bilateral cooperation, are aiming at making their borders a door to cooperation.Singh, who commissioned the Baglihar power project in Jammu earlier in the day and shall inaugurate the first train in the Valley on Saturday, said good relations with Pakistan are an essential part of India’s foreign policy. While the borders can’t be changed, the PM said, we we can make them irrelevant. “When I met Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in New York recently, I invited Pakistan to work with us to usher in a new area of sub-continental cooperation,’’ he said. The PM said India and Pakistan purport to start crossborder trade via Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalkot routes in J&K on October 21, 2008. “This is a major initiative. The fact is these moves are taking place after many lost decades in mutual recrimination, violence and war,’’ he said. The winds of change in the subcontinent in the spheres of economics, technology and travel, the PM said, are altering older mindsets of suspicion, fear and hostility. “It’s undeniable that much has changed between India and Pakistan in the past few years. Trade, people-to-people contacts, cultural exchanges and most of all the desire to move on are altering everything,’’ Singh said. He offered talks with every section of society in J&K including the separatists and the Hurriyat. “I have held several round of talks with Hurriyat leader in the past and I am ready hold talks with them again,’’ the PM said. Speaking on the growing terrorist attacks in the country, Singh said terrorists have no religion and that their activities would be dealt with sternly. On elections in J&K, he said, “The government would ensure free and fair elections to allow all parties to participate in the polls to prove their representative character.’’ The Baglihar project is expected to ease J&K’s starved power grid by adding 450 mw to it. Since its inception, the project has been a bone of contention with Pakistan, which has objected to the height of the dam on the Chenab river and alleged that it violated the Indus Waters Treaty.

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