The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal cry to catch last Lahore bus
- PM’s peace plea: Ensure that life wins over death

Berlin, May 27: Making an impassioned pitch for his “third and last attempt” at peace with Pakistan, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said today that “the bus to Lahore should not go astray this time”.

Addressing a gathering of NRIs on the first evening after his arrival in Berlin, Vajpayee referred to historic changes in Europe and the bringing down of the Berlin Wall.

Taking off from there, the Prime Minister made a strong case for peace with Pakistan. He declared: “Let the walls that divide come down. Remove the obstacles that distance people. It is ironic that Nawaz Sharif was reading my poem Jang na hone denge hum (we will not allow war to take place) in Lahore. But a war did take place. Just because there is war, we should not give up the quest for peace. Just because death is certain, people do not stop worshipping life. We must do everything to ensure that life wins over death.”

“Why can’t we live in peace and solve our problems through dialogue' Mankind has created amazing weapons and is fully aware of their destructive potential. If even after that humanity does not choose peace over war, one can only conclude that it has acquired power without wisdom.”

Recalling his visit to Lahore, he said that he had taken the bus of peace to Pakistan but it was followed by the Kargil conflict. The Prime Minister said: “I had gone with a message of peace to Lahore. But it is another thing that the bus to Lahore met with an accident on the peaks of Kargil.

“And what an accident it was — the bus was shattered to smithereens and even the Prime Minister of Pakistan had to quit.”

The Prime Minister said India had learnt after the event that while the Lahore process was on, the Kargil conspiracy was also going on simultaneously and that even the Pakistani Prime Minister was unaware of it.

Despite that, India had invited General Pervez Musharraf to Agra. “But even that invitation went waste because India could not have met the conditions put forward (by Pakistan).”

Vajpayee claimed that neither Lahore nor the failure of the Agra summit had deterred him from trying for peace yet again. The Prime Minister, however, said that while India sought peace, “we are also ready to protect ourselves as we cannot leave the nation unprotected”.

As if to sidestep criticism about talking of war and peace in the same breath, Vajpayee said that people often asked him how India could continue its quest for peace while also talking of war. “The world is full of contradictions and this is just one of them. We may want peace but what if the other side doesn’t' We should be prepared for that, too,” he said.

Therefore, Vajpayee said, India would continue its search for peace but “if to protect peace we have to take some steps, we will not hesitate to take them”. However, he quickly added that it made no sense “to spend our resources on war”.

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