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Atal restraint call to US

Ahmedabad, Jan. 28: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today opened the first phase of the Ahmedabad-Vadodara Expressway with an appeal to the mahashakti (superpower) to exercise restraint.

War is not a solution to the Iraq-US crisis, he said. “Self-restraint is the need of the hour.”

The appeal came even as he outlined his vision of a modern India inter-linked by a network of roads. “We are living in the age of speed. It is speed that matters. Speed is the only key to a country’s economic progress, which is not possible without proper road network, to which my government is committed.”

Vajpayee said once the 5,846-km-long golden quadrilateral (national expressway linking Porbandar to Silchar and Srinagar to Kanyakumari) is completed, the country will save several hundred crores of rupees, giving the economy a boost.

The expressway, a part of the government’s ambitious national Highways Development Project, the largest-ever highways project initiated by the Centre, was launched in 1998. Gujarat was given priority as it attracts a high amount of road and freight traffic.

Dedicating the 43-km stretch of the first phase of the expressway to the nation, Vajpayee dwelt on the economics of war and its impact on the country. “We are against war. If it is fought, the prices of petroleum products will go up. That will affect us as we import oil from the Middle East, including Iraq,” he said.

“That is why we are demanding that the crisis be resolved through negotiations,” he added without naming the US. “The United Nations should play its role … to avert the war. We do not know what the mahashakti will do, our advice is to avert war, hold negotiations through the UN and exercise restraint.”

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani said inter-linking of rivers and developing a countrywide road network was the Prime Minister’s dream. “What we are seeing today is the realisation of that dream,” he added.

Taking a dig at the Congress, which has ruled the country for 45 years, the deputy Prime Minister said that despite “immense potential”, the country could not make progress. “We are still a backward, underdeveloped country. This is because of lack of proper infrastructure development, which the BJP-led government has given top priority,” he said.

Earlier, speaking on the occasion, chief minister Narendra Modi urged the Prime Minister to give special incentive to the Gujarat government which had done exceptionally well in developing a rural road network. The state has 98 per cent road connectivity. “I understand that the Prime Minister is concerned about the areas that have remained underdeveloped, but we want to be rewarded for what we have been able to achieve. We want money to upgrade our rural road network,” he said.

Vajpayee, however, did not make any commitment, saying that his first priority was to develop those areas which have remained backward, where there are no proper motorable roads.

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