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PM seeks peaceful solution to J&K turmoil

PM on Friday reiterated his stand of making borders irrelevant.

Oct 11, 2008, 02.48 AM IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurates the 450 MW Baglihar power project, as Congress party President Sonia Gandhi, Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav, wearing white, and former Chief Minister of Jammu Kashmir state Ghulam Nabi Azad, left, look on at Chanderkot, about 154 kilometers (96 miles) north of Jammu, India, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008. (AP)
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurates the 450 MW Baglihar power project, as Congress party President Sonia Gandhi, Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav, wearing white, and former Chief Minister of Jammu Kashmir state Ghulam Nabi Azad, left, look on at Chanderkot, about 154 kilometers (96 miles) north of Jammu, India, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008. (AP)
SRINAGAR/ CHANDRAKOTE: Coinciding with the ongoing visit of a trade delegation from across the LoC, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday reiterated his stand of making borders irrelevant. He said while borders can not be changed, these can be made irrelevant.

Holding separatists responsible for not following-up talks process, he said the government will explore all the bilateral options before jumping to any tripartite way out.

His theme for the J&K visit, which many treat as his effort to ���regain Kashmir��� prior to polls, was a peaceful co-existence with Pakistan. The prime minister said stable and peaceful Pakistan was in the interest of India and referred to his successful meetings with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

���My vision of India-Pakistan relations is that both countries situate their bilateral relations in a cooperative framework of mutual understanding,��� Mr Singh said. ���We seek the normalisation of our relations with Pakistan, a solution of all issues that cause estrangement, including J&K, through dialogue and peaceful negotiations in an atmosphere free of violence.���

Reminding his endeavour to start bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad in April 2005, he said the significance of his latest step of opening the LoC for trade will be judged by history. ���I embarked on these steps facing lots of hurdles and difficulties,��� he conceded.

Reiterating commitment to resolve all issues, including J&K, with Pakistan through peaceful dialogue, the prime minister said he envisaged a concept of a different nationhood ���where borders exist only on maps.���

Asked if his concept would make LoC a permanent border thus leading to a permanent division of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Singh said he doesn���t know where things would lead. ���It will create an environment where borders will not matter.

It will create conditions for a Kashmiri in Srinagar and Muzaffarabad that they should not see and face difficulties and obstacles in people-to-people contacts. It will also ensure trade barriers are minimised.���

The prime minister said he wants J&K to be part of the wider process that is taking shape in subcontinent after
decades of mutual recrimination, violence and war. ���Economics, technology and travel are altering the older mindsets of suspicion, fear and hostility,��� he said.

He, however, admitted that ���a section of youth��� have some resentment and the government is willing to resolve them through dialogue.

The prime minister said the government will withdraw special laws (offering security forces special powers) when situation is conducive enough for that and that situation is yet to emerge. He said talks are required for everything, including the recommendations that have come from Working Groups.

He did not said directly that the situation was conducive for polls but urged all parties including Hurriyat to take advantage of forthcoming elections. ���I appeal all segments to take advantage of ballot box rather gun in arbitrating people���s destiny,��� he said.

Also On Friday, two persons were killed and 75 people, including 34 security personnel, injured in firing by security personnel on violent street protesters led by separatists.

The violent protests erupted in parts of the city and Baramulla district town shortly after Friday prayers when hundreds of people took to streets in the Valley where normal life was hit by a strike called by separatists��� coordination committee against the prime ministers visit.

Mehraj-ud-din Sheikh alias ���Babloo��� and Shafat Ahmad Dar were killed when security forces opened fire after teargas shelling and lathicharge proved ineffective to disperse stone-pelting mobs at Nowhatta and adjoining localities in the vicinity of Jamia Masjid in interior city, official sources said.

Earlier, the day-long clashes between police and the protesters in the sensitive area left 55 persons, including 25 security personnel, injured, the sources said adding the injured CRPF personnel included an assistant commandant of the force. A police spokesman said security forces opened fire when a group of violent protestors resorted to stone-pelting in a bid to ransack police station at Nowhatta.

Baglihar commissioned
Earlier on Friday, the prime minister commissioned the 450 MW Baglihar power plant and said concerns of Pakistan, which raised objections over the project with World Bank, have been addressed.

The Rs 5,500-crore project built over river Chenab, which is expected to help the state generate a revenue of Rs 900 crore, was dedicated to the nation by the prime minister in the presence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Governor N N Vohra and Union ministers Lalu Prasad and Jairam Ramesh.

Addressing a public meeting, Mr Singh said that in the implementation of project, special care has been taken to ensure that ���genuine concerns��� of Pakistan were taken care of so that it has no complaints in this regard. Pakistan had approached the World Bank in 2005 alleging that the power plant was being built in violation of the Indus Water

Treaty signed by the two countries in 1960 and apprehended it would divert water from its territory.
���Today is a very happy occasion on the completion of the first phase of Baglihar project,��� the Prime Minister said, adding it would shore up the pace of development in the state and also go a long way in meeting power requirements of the people, facing severe electricity crises.

He said work on the second phase of the power plant with a capacity of 450 MW would be started very soon. Mr Singh said the country produced nearly 26% of electricity from hydro projects and hoped that it would be increased to 40% in coming years. He said both Jammu and Kashmir and North Eastern states have immense hydro power potential.
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